- Where should I pay the tickets?
This is from an English material for students. (Sightseeing 3: Buying a ticket)
I learnt at school that you "pay money" and you "pay for tickets". Is "pay tickets" also OK?
Short answer: you are correct and that travel English guide is wrong.
The verb pay can either be transitive (takes direct object) or intransitive (takes either a indirect object, or no object).
Often, we use the transitive version, A paid B, to mean that A gave money to B for some goods or service.
I paid Alice $20.
We use the intransitive version, A paid for B to mean A gave money to someone who is not named for some goods or service B.
I paid for the tickets
BUT, there's another use that falls somewhere between these two general rules:
I paid the bill
In this case, we're using the transitive version, but it does not mean I gave money to the bill, it means I gave money to someone else in the amount that the bill indicated.
There are a handful of nouns that can be used here, similarly to bill. Some examples are:
I paid the amount
I paid the debt
I paid the wages
I paid five dollars
And most confusing of all (in this context): I paid the ticket!
The trick there is that ticket can either mean:
a certificate or token showing that a fare or admission fee has been paid
a summons or warning issued to a traffic-law violator
When a traffic cop gives you a speeding ticket, you pay the ticket. But you cannot pay the ticket for the museum.
The correct thing to say is "where should I buy the tickets?"
In "buy" the object is what you will get. "Pay" is about what you give for it. An example using each: "I paid $35 to buy drinks for everyone". "Buy" can also mean the whole transaction, for example "I bought this cat for $100". There's no need to say "pay" since buying includes paying.
"Pay for" is special. It means "finish buying by giving the money". You'd say it after you've starting buying something. At a restaurant you might get the food then say "find a table while I pay for it". If you ordered the food over the phone, you might say "I'll go in and pay for it". But no one would ever say "I'm hungry -- let's go over there and pay for a sandwich" (they'd say "buy").