This is about the expression no strings attached from the plural of string:

  1. strings [plural] : requirements that are connected with something : things that you have to do, give, etc., if you accept something (such as a gift or an offer)

    • She won't accept the gift if there are strings. [=if she is expected to do something in return for it]
    • They offered her the job with no strings attached. [=with no conditions]
    • He's generous, but there are always strings attached. [=he always expects something in return for what he gives to people]

[ Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary - string ]

  1. Is using strings without attached just a short form or is there a difference in the meaning? In the first example could either be used?
  2. Is there a (more?) figurative sense whereby you could apply this to ideas or can it only be about people owing something, and control :

    There is idea A, and there is idea B; the latter has no strings attached to the former.

    Would that mean anything; would you rather use "(not) connected/there is no connection" instead? Something else?

  3. If someone is not a party to a transaction but is reporting on it, would that person say of an offer or deal between the parties that it comes with or has no strings attached? Is it just the focus on the offer being made vs. its characteristics or is there something else I'm not getting here?
  • Please help me out with the tags; I'm really bad at this. Thank you. – user16335 Jul 8 '15 at 22:07
  1. I've never seen the expression without attached. But it's certainly intelligible, and I sort of like it: it lets you say strings with considerably more emphasis and foreboding.

    She's taken the job and she's happy; but I'm afraid there will be (ominous whisper) strings.

  2. The expression is basically metaphorical; the image evoked is that of a marionette manipulated by some agent for his own purposes. I would suggest that you not use it of control exerted by an entity such as an idea to which you cannot attribute agency.

    In any case, the strings are "attached" only to the gift or favor bestowed, and thus indirectly to the recipient; the manipulator is not attached to the gift but employs it as an instrument.

  3. I'm not quite clear on what you're asking here, but certainly the observation that strings are attached can be made by anybody, not just the parties involved.

  • Thank you; about 3, I was under the impression that when one is part of a bargain and says "it comes with no strings", it's as if they're showcasing/reasserting the offer; I thought someone describing it and not being part of this would use that less... would you say that anyone can make the observation that it comes with strings attached? – user16335 Jul 8 '15 at 22:53
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    @Divulgâchâmes Ah .. As a practical matter, of course, only the person making the offer can say with certainty that no strings are attached; others can only say that there seem to be no strings attached. On the other hand, the person making the offer is likely to say that no strings are attached even if they are! – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 8 '15 at 23:12
  • Thanks, most likely I have a half-baked understanding of the phrasal "come with", which I associate with sale speak etc.; looking at Longman's phrasal. – user16335 Jul 9 '15 at 0:35
  • "Come with" has idiomatic uses, but it's not a 'phrasal': It came with strings attached is really no different from She came with her husband. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 9 '15 at 0:55
  • I hear "no strings" all the time but I think you were referring to the positive sense. – shawnt00 Jul 10 '15 at 2:13

1) I think normally in this context you would use strings attached. The example with just strings sounds strange to me.

2) You can use phrases like unconditionally/without condition, without obligation, or do as you please.

3) Without context, I don't see any difference for a third party view.

  • Thank you; for 3 the context is a bargain has been struck between two people, I'm reporting to someone else, I'm saying that insofar as it relates to one party in terms of impact, "that this comes with/has no strings attached." Irrespective of perspective, do you hear a difference between comes/has in this context? – user16335 Jul 8 '15 at 22:58
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    I can't tell any real difference, though "has no strings attached" sounds more natural to me. – user3169 Jul 8 '15 at 23:26

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