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Ok, so I'm a native English speaker and some non-natives have asked my help clarifying a particular phrase. The phrase is, "Receive $100 per friend you refer to (name of company)" for me it sounds somewhat awkward, but I don't know why or how to explain it. I would have gone with, "Receive $100 for every friend you refer to ___"

Can someone shed light on the issue or confirm that the original phrase is right?

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I agree with your sense of what sounds better, but it isn't grammatical as much as it is about the connotations of "per".

Per and friend don't go well together. Per is usually followed by a neutral noun (per ticket, per showing, per person, per flight, per dozen), and the neutrality does not admit any sort of feeling. It is also associated with price and money, and the pecuniary sense jars with the notion of friendship.

It's almost comical, like a sign for a Justice of the Peace in Las Vegas that might read:

Weddings: $50 per Beloved

  • Thank you for the clarification. I knew it sounded "off", but I couldn't put my finger on why. I'll let them know your explanation if the issue comes up again! – Kendra Sarah Feb 25 '16 at 10:44
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The original phrase is perfectly fine and grammatically correct.

"per" simply means "for each". It comes from latin but it's an English word and has a normal entry in the dictionary (it's not in a special latin words section, for example).

I think that either of those alternatives is fine, but if you are confused/uneasy about "per" then perhaps other people might be to, and you could therefore go with "for every".

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I don't like the proliferated use of this word at all.

For example,

  • Per manager's instruction, no further action is to be taken.
  • We should follow the procedures per quality specs QM 101.

This trend of use is very distressing to me. Reading emails from certain regions of the world which use the word this way is rather uncomfortable for me. I have been thinking that this trend of use was discovered, reinvented and then popularised by some egghead in Mountain View CA, who then passed it on to engineers and production planners in certain regions of Asia.

Should we care that the Latin origin of the word means according to or with respect to? So that per cent = per centum = according to a hundred = with respect to a hundred. Does its Latin origins provide us with the liberty to use, abuse or creatively use the word?

One could see that

  • 5% would in essence mean = 5 with respect to 100.
  • 5 parts per billion = 5 parts with reference to a billion.

Therefore, it is quite legitimate to say

The price of entrance to the concert with respect to each person is 8500 rupees.

Which is a long-winded way to say

The price of entrance to the concert is 8500 rupees per person.

If I could use it that way, then it is certainly perfectly legitimate to say

  • I am getting $500 per friend I introduce to work in the company.
  • We are planning for four glasses of wine per friend coming to our party.

We may not like the way the word is used, but it is completely legitimate and acceptable.

It is no longer possible to believe that proper and acceptable usage of English can only be defined in the US, Canada or UK.

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