Tell me please if there is any difference between the following sentences.

Kate gave me her phone free.

Kate gave me her phone for free.

If there is no difference, then which one is more common?

  • 1
    British people used to just say 'free', and Americans 'for free', but more and more Brits say it the American way (I don't). – Michael Harvey Mar 12 '20 at 13:21
  • I might say Kate gave me her phone for nothing, but I wouldn't necessarily add anything at all after phone, since "without payment" is the default implication of gave anyway. – FumbleFingers Mar 12 '20 at 14:14

There are so many different ways you could say the same thing, and yet one could pick fault with them all, which may be the reason why we have ended up with a mixed-up idiomatic phrase.

"For free" isn't strictly grammatically correct, because "free" is not an amount - it is short for "free of charge", meaning there was no charge. No charge, no amount. However, people do say it, so it has become idiomatic. My guess would be it is an amalgamation of "for nothing" and "free".

Yet, there is something a little unnatural about "Kate gave me her phone, free". Written, you can see the comma; but spoken, it could sound awkward.

However, "Kate gave me her phone for nothing" is ambiguous - it could also mean she gave you her phone for no good reason.

I also wonder if there is actually any need to add "for free / for nothing" at all - because if Kate gave you her phone, and didn't sell it to you, then it should go without saying it was "free". Of course, she could "give you" her phone for other reasons, with the intention of you giving it back afterwards.

Some non-ambiguous, and grammatically correct ways to say it would be:

Kate gave me her phone without charge / free of charge.

Kate donated her old phone to me.

  • So if I just said "Kate gave me her phone" that could mean that Kate lent it to me, right? – Dmytro O'Hope Mar 12 '20 at 14:41
  • @DmytroO'Hope yes. – Astralbee Mar 12 '20 at 14:42

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