The following two sentences both contain the phrase " charge somebody to do something ", but I wonder if the meaning of the phrase varies in different contexts.

The federal funds rate is the interest rate that the Fed charges banks to borrow money.

For this one, I think it means that when banks borrow money from the Fed, Fed will charge them? In this case, the implied subject of to borrow money should be banks.

For the 43-year-old who sleeps in a tent outside a local church, the library is pretty much the only place he can go that won't charge him to provide safety, warmth, useful services and entertainment.

This sentence shares a similar structure with the one above, I think it means that the library provides safety, warmth and other stuffs, and the 43-year-old do not have to pay for those?

But based on the context, it seems like the implied subject of to provide safety, warmth,... is the library instead of the homeless guy. Why is that?

  • Welcome to ELL! This is an excellent first question. The amount of detail you’ve included makes your question easy to understand.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 13 '19 at 14:07

Although there are numerous possibly meanings for "charge", the meaning in both of your example sentences is the same, "to ask/demand someone to pay money for some service".

In the first sentence, when private banks borrow money from the Federal Reserve Bank (which is more or less the National Bank of the United States), the Fed charges them some interest rate on that money.

In the second sentence, the homeless man can go to the library to get certain comforts (safety, warmth, etc.) for free. Other locations would charge him for those same services. The phrasing of this sentence is a little confusing. It might be easier to understand if we rephrase it in the passive voice as:

For the 43-year-old ... the library is pretty much the only place where he won't be charged for safety, warmth, useful services and entertainment.

Related note: "Charge" has another, slightly formal definition:

charge (v): 3. Entrust (someone) with a task as a duty or responsibility.

At first I thought your second sentence used this meaning -- as I said, the sentence has unusual (but not incorrect) phrasing. We could rewrite the sentence, however, to use this meaning of "charge"

Because it is a public institution, the law charges the library with providing many of its services to anyone for free (or free from charge).

  • Thank you so much, I saw this sentence on the internet "He also learned that the city had condemned the house and would now charge him to demolish it." Does the charge in this sentence also mean "to entrust someone with a task" ?
    – jian nini
    Jun 14 '19 at 0:34
  • 1
    @jiannini Yes, it does. This definition of "charge" is normally used in formal situations, with orders from some civil authority.
    – Andrew
    Jun 14 '19 at 0:42
  • Thank you so much for taking the time to read and answer my questions, they are really helpful :)
    – jian nini
    Jun 14 '19 at 0:45

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