A friend of mine used the following sentence:

I recently acquired a pizza stone to use for baking bread.

In Italian, comprare (buy) and acquistare (acquire, in a sentence like the previous one) both imply that I paid for something. Is it so also for English?

The reason I am asking is that I noticed that acquire is also used in cases where Italian would use acquisire, which normally doesn't imply any payment. My doubt is that, in the example sentence I used, acquire could not necessarily mean something was paid, but it could also mean something was obtained in other ways. Is it really so?

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    Per @bytebuster's first MW definition, because acquired is a relatively "unusual" word, using it would very often imply that you "came by" the pizza stone via some non-standard route - for example, it fell off the back of a lorry, or your millionaire Italian aunt just died, but the only thing she left you in her will was that pizza stone you'd always admired whenever you visited her as a child. Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 20:30
  • That is what I was thinking. By the way, your comment seems a good answer. :) I like the examples you made.
    – apaderno
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 20:41
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    I'm guessing you might be Italian, so I made up the Italian aunt specially for you! If she's actually real, you can always practice hard and get really good at stonebaked pizza - then open a global chain of "authentic" pizzerias, and soon you'll be even richer than your sibling who got left all the money! Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


Merriam-Webster defines acquire as the following (highlight is mine):

a. to come into possession or control of often by unspecified means;
b. to come to have as a new or added characteristic, trait, or ability (as by sustained effort or natural selection);

So, you are right: acquire does not necessarily mean something was really bought.

It should be noticed that buy is quite informal, so it may happen that someone wants to use a more formal word. I would use purchase in this case, however.

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    +1 An elegant marriage of authority and relevance. ... the less formal variant of acquired might be got hold of (or to be really informal, got ahold of). Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 21:39
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    I wouldn't be too concerned about the alleged informality of buy. It's an often-used word that isn't likely to be perceived as too informal (at least, not in the U.S.).
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 23:15
  • @J.R. The NOAD says that buy used as noun is informal ("the wine is a good buy at $3.49"). As verb, it is not said to be informal, except in buy the farm, which means something else than buying. Does this match with your experience? (I could not find a word to use instead of experience. :))
    – apaderno
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 7:33
  • I would buy that. (By the way, the verb buy is also listed as informal, when it means "to believe", as in, "I'm not sure I buy that explanation.") But "I'm going to buy a pizza stone for my brother" would be fine; if anything, purchase might sound overly formal in a context like that.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 9:05

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