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  1. Should I buy/purchase web hosting?
  2. Should I buy/purchase Adobe Photoshop?
  3. Should I buy/purchase this car?
  4. Should I buy/purchase this land?

When should I use buy and purchase? Why?

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  • I have never heard someone say I don't purchase that opinion.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 29, 2016 at 15:30

1 Answer 1

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In meaning, they're exactly the same. You can interchange fairly freely. Looking at the definitions on The Free Dictionary, each is used to define the other.

In practice, "purchase" is of a higher register than "buy", making it more formal. You might find "purchase" in a legal document, or regarding government expenditure, whereas "buy" is perhaps more for daily use.

The only other discernible difference I can think of is that "purchase" has the noun "purchase/s" whereas "buy" doesn't.

In your examples, simply consider the formality required for the context.

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    Buy can be a noun, but is ordinarily used as a noun only in certain financial contexts – a buy of stocks and bonds, for instance – and when we speak of something as being a good buy or a best buy in recommending a purchase. Otherwise, using buy as a noun usually indicates an effort to sound hip. Mar 15, 2014 at 17:03
  • Thanks for the comment. This is true. I could have included that in my answer, but I added nouns as an afterthought, since the question was about verbs. Food for thought, though, thanks.
    – JMB
    Mar 15, 2014 at 18:58
  • (+1, by the way; I was just supplementing a good answer.) I think you were entirely right to include the nouns. Many of the problems learners have arise because they are given "rules" or formulas which apply only in limited contexts. (I'm thinking particularly of the "baby rules" around perfect constructions, and the appalling "1st, 2nd 3rd" conditionals.) It is important to tell them when the rule you give them stops working, or you're just creating a future problem. Mar 15, 2014 at 19:13
  • I agree with your point about learners being a bit "misled" by some rules. Nice feedback, thanks.
    – JMB
    Mar 15, 2014 at 22:15
  • One other place where I might use purchase instead of buy is when using the words as a modifier. Someone working at a company might need to fill out a purchase request form before buying Adobe Photoshop, for example. (I don't think I've every really heard of a buy request form, although, strictly speaking, English wouldn't forbid that.)
    – J.R.
    Mar 16, 2014 at 10:51

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