pay vs pay for - grammar - key word transformation CAE

These two verbs are very often confused by English students because they are similar in meaning; however, they are used differently.

We use "pay something" to mean that we pay money that we owe for services or goods that we have previously received. We pay a person, or we pay a bill or invoice.


  • No one likes having to open their wallet to pay a speeding ticket.
  • Do I have to pay taxes on my lottery winnings?

We use "pay for" when we want to talk about the event or item we give money for and receive at the same time. We usually pay for work, services or goods that we receive at the time of paying.


  • I won't date a man who won't let me pay for the dinner.
  • I went to the petrol station to fill up my tank , and because I got sidetracked talking to my wife , I nearly forgot to pay for the petrol.

In the grammar sheet below, you will find some more examples that will help you to better understand how to use these two verbs.

You can download this sheet in PDF format by clicking on the PDF icon below

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pay vs pay for - grammar