Happy New Year my friends!
I have just received a letter from my school librarian on the stroke of 00:00. He asked me if I had paid for the library card.
Given that context, what is the difference between these two:
(1) You can pay for this library card via ABC Web. Vs (2) You can pay this library card via ABC Web.
I am confused of the 2nd sentence because I had heard some people say these:
"I forgot to pay for the gas bill","I forgot to pay the gas bill".
"Mum and Dad paid for my driving lessons", "Mum and Dad paid my driving lessons"

It is wrong to say "pay for the card fee".
Is it wrong to say "I have made the payment for the card fee" either?

2 Answers 2


There are three things to consider. The first two are easy: who are you paying? why are you paying?

The third is a bit hard to explain but think of the need for a payment as a thing on its own distinct from the person you are paying and the reason you are paying. This often takes the form of a document like a bill or invoice but also could be more of an idea like a debt or a fee.

Who you are paying and the "need to pay" can be used without "for". In fancy words, they can be "direct objects" of "pay". The reason you are paying should be attached with "for".

"You pay the library."

The library is who you are giving money to.

"You pay for the library card."

The library card is why you are paying. You are not giving money to the little bit of plastic so you do not "pay" it and instead "pay for" it.

"You pay the library card fee."

The library card fee is the idea of needing to pay. You can think of it as a hole you need to fill with money into in order get the library card. Because the money is going into that hole, you "pay" it rather than "pay for" it.

  • Thank you, smithkm!
    – kitty
    Jun 6, 2019 at 19:44

In American English, we use "pay for" when specifying exactly what is or will be received in return for the payment.

I am going to pay my gas bill.

I am going to pay for my gas

Mom and dad paid my driving instructor.

Mom and dad paid for my driving lessons

Are you buying a library card? In that case you would use "pay for."

"What a rip off. I had to pay $5 dollars for my library card, but it is made out of cheap plastic!"

If you are paying off the fines for overdue library books, then use "pay" without "for."

"I lost three library books and returned two late. Now I have to pay the fines on my library account. Can you believe that? I have to pay the library bill.
I have to pay the library so they won't sue me!"

...Unless you want to specify what specific actions caused the fines to be levied, in which case for might be appropriate:

"I lost three library books and returned two late. There is no grace period, so now I have to pay for the late books, even though they were only a day late. I will eventually have to pay for the books I lost, but they haven't sent me the bill for those yet."

  • Although you would "pay the fines" or "pay my library card bill" not "pay the library card". You could also "Pay the library to settle my overdue book fines."
    – ColleenV
    Dec 31, 2014 at 17:50
  • @ColleenV I agree with all of your usage examples and I think they are all consistent with my answer, since in none of those cases are you specifying what you actually receive in return for the payment. "I am paying the library. I am paying my fines. I am paying my bill. I am paying for cancellation of any financial obligation to the library. I am paying for a book that I returned late."
    – Adam
    Dec 31, 2014 at 18:11
  • @Adam, in your example, you said "I am paying for a book that I returned late". Does this mean that you are buying the book instead of the overdue fine?
    – kitty
    Dec 31, 2014 at 18:20
  • 1
    @kitty No - I helped myself to a small amount of irresponsible book-borrowing. It was fun and carefree, but now I am paying for it, even though the books have been returned.
    – Adam
    Dec 31, 2014 at 18:35

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