A company is experimenting with a new licensing model. It is called "Pay by use".

However, this does not make sense to me. In my understanding, "Pay by use" means: "I compensate for the hotdog by eating it". It has nothing to do with money.

IMHO, this should be "pay per use" (compensate for the hotdog per bite instead of the hotdog as a whole). It might also be possible that they want to express a temporal condition. In that case "pay at use" might be suitable (compensate for the hotdog when you start eating it, instead of when it is handed over).

I'd like to review whether "pay by use" is a legitimate payment model a company can live from and that "pay per use" is likely the correct term. I've never heard "pay at use", so I'd like your opinions on that in a context of making commercial benefit.

  • Certainly "pay per use" sounds much more idiomatic to me. Compare "pay per view" for TV programmes. Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


Pay per use suggests that each 'use' is a discrete instance. You use it once, you use it twice. Instances of use are countable, essentially.

Pay by use is reasonably well attested, though more popular recently in the specific case of cloud computing is pay by usage. This suggests that use is a volume rather than a number (though there's a number somewhere underneath, it's likely to be large), like "pay by use garbage collection" where each property has its waste weighed to determine how much they should be charged. Because it's usually used in relatively specialist domains, though it has been around some time, pay by use may be less familiar to a lot of people now than pay by usage, because people do keep hearing about cloud computing lately.

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