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Which of the following is correct?

We hire our bicycle...

  1. by the hour.
  2. by hours.
  3. by an hour.
  4. for hours.
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In America it is customary to say, "We rent our bicycles by the hour." Hire is not typically used to talk about renting- it is used in conjunction with jobs. Thus I can hire an employee. I can hire a band to play music. I can hire a landscaping company to redo my front yard etc. But I would rent a bicycle. For things like taxis we neither rent nor hire them, we just call them. I understand this may be different in other English-speaking countries. –  Jim May 28 '12 at 4:00
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@Jim Hiring is a perfectly fine alternative to renting. You can hire a car; you can also hire a TV. You can buy things on hire purchase. –  deutschZuid May 28 '12 at 4:07
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To the OP, this question is likely to be closed as you didn't specify what sort of problem you are having with this. It feels to me that you simply want others to do the work for you. Tell us how you interpret each choice and what you think is correct, then this question might have some merit. –  deutschZuid May 28 '12 at 4:10
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@JamesJiao: Jim is right, in the U.S., using the word hire in that way would get you a lot of puzzled looks. Interesting how Macmillan's American dictionary lists this as a secondary meaning, with a BRITISH tag, while their British dictionary lists it as a primary meaning. –  J.R. May 28 '12 at 4:17
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@tchrist Again, how are my points contradicting with yours? Which part of "I should've gone on to add that it's a fine alternative where I live." did you not understand? –  deutschZuid May 28 '12 at 6:45
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1 Answer

Regardless of whether OP is hiring ("renting" in the US, apparently) bicycles as a supplier or as a customer, if the standard charging unit is an hour, said bicycles are hired/rented by the hour.

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Maybe Americans can’t hire things because one can’t pay the things. Only sentient agents get to be hired. If you rent things, you’re not paying the thing, but the owner of the thing. It might also be that hiring requires a sentient agent to accept the job. You couldn’t hire an umbrella because you can’t get the umbrella to make the choice of being hired, and it can’t get paid. Instead, you rent the umbrella from its owner, who’s the one who accepts the rental and who gets paid for its use. –  tchrist May 28 '12 at 4:54
    
@tchrist- well said. –  Jim May 28 '12 at 5:36
    
@tchrist: Perhaps so, but doesn't that all come down to the definition of rent? Clearly, in much of the English-speaking world, you absolute can hire something, even if you are paying the owner, and not the object itself. –  J.R. May 28 '12 at 11:43
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@tchrist: I understand the distinction. But it's not one which would normally be made in the UK, where we would "hire a cement mixer". For us, renting tends to apply to longer periods and/or living accomodation, but much of the time the words are interchangeable. –  FumbleFingers May 28 '12 at 11:44
    
@FumbleFingers: As I use the terms, the bicycle owner rents out his cycles by the hour; as one of his customers I hire one for two hours. –  TimLymington May 28 '12 at 14:30
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