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Is pay-for or for-pay the correct word? For example, which of these two sentences is correct?

  • This is a pay-for product.
  • This is a for-pay product.
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The usage stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the British National Corpus (BNC) look as follows:

            COCA    BNC      

for-pay      22      0
pay-for       0      0           

In other words, pay-for is not an option on either side of the pond, while for-pay is only used in American English.

The most common collocates are services (3) and version (2). There is not a single cite for a for-pay product, but then again the sample size is very small.

My personal advice: while for-pay is self-explanatory enough to be used in informal contexts, in formal writing you might wish to reword. There isn't a single one-size-fits-all adjective; depending on context anything from commercial to premium might or might not work. You might have to restructure the entire phrase ("available for a fee" or some such).

See also: What is the opposite of “free” as in “free of charge”?

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Both pay-for-play and $X-for-pay both come to mind here. – tchrist Nov 16 '12 at 17:30
Perhaps there's a US/UK split here. I don't come across pay-for or for-pay, but we in the UK are quite familiar with paid-for products / services. The fact that the descriptor is past tense doesn't necessarily mean you've already paid for it - just that it's a product/service that's not given away free. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 0:56
pay-per is also a common variation, when the service has a well-known noun associated with it. For instance, a television broadcast may be referred to as pay-per-view. – Chris Nov 29 '12 at 18:50

People say "for-pay", but I think a real word like "commercial" or "professional" would be better.

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