The two-word sign "take free" in English is increasingly used in Japan to offer complimentary publications and other products. Is the phrase, which is considered kind of trendy in Japan, also used in English-speaking countries with the same meaning? Does it make sense to native English speakers? Is another phrase "take one free" a better choice of expression?

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    Yes; I'd say that even in headlinese, 'Take free' sounds very unnatural in BrE. Feb 21, 2017 at 11:04
  • "Take free" gets a score of about 100 on my (quite sensitive) 和製英語 meter. Feb 22, 2017 at 0:35
  • No. It sounds like a bad translation: Jinglish.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 20, 2021 at 19:35
  • 2
    @curious-proofreader: Unless you tell us what the maximum reading is, your comment is meaningless.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 20, 2021 at 19:36

4 Answers 4


"Take free" is not a conventional expression in English and it's not grammatically correct either.

Here are some expressions which would be more commonly seen, on complimentary magazines and so on:



"Free - take one"

"Please help yourself"

"Please take one"

Here's some real life examples:

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  • 2
    And... free for the taking (at least in American English) Feb 21, 2017 at 14:08
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    It's grammatically ok but far from idiomatic: it could be parsed as imperative verb plus adverb. Although "Take! Free!" would be better.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 20, 2021 at 18:11

I live in the U.S. When people set a give-away out by the edge of the street for anyone to adopt, they usually write the following minimalist message, so they can write with really big, fat letters and use the whole space on their piece of cardboard:


This can also be used for free newspapers and advertising brochures, as one of J. Taylor's pictures showed.

  • @Lambie - good heavens. Sounds like the germ of an outstanding question for SE Law! Or maybe Lifehacks. Brainstorming here, if there's some kind of nonprofit or government office focused on reducing landfill filling, maybe they could reach out to the condo board and help it develop a program with good PR! / I'm currently training to be a volunteer mediator and one of the videotaped roleplays my study group watched recently was precisely about an irrational neighborhood board upset because a homeowner painted her house lavender. / Maybe they would enter into a mediation with you about this! Nov 7, 2021 at 18:48
  • Also it might be helpful to check your condo docs. / Anyway, nice to hear from you. Nov 7, 2021 at 18:48
  • @Lambie Sounds painful. I don't know what's available in your state, but in my state (NY) every county has a community dispute resolution center. It's okay for one party to be represented (by an attorney) and one not -- mediators are trained to handle that situation. Also, a gung-ho outside organization or govt dept can do a lot if so inspired -- and you needn't be involved. / Let me know when you're ready for me to delete my comments too, if that's what you want. But I still think it would be worthwhile to post a redacted copy of your condo docs at SE Law. Nov 7, 2021 at 19:11
  • @Lambie - Yes, you've read the condo docs, but if you decide to post at SE Law (and I hope you will), it would be only fair to let them see the condo rules (redacted I suppose). I unfortunately don't know anything about that area of law but I'd be curious what the smart people at SE Law have to say because what you described sparked my sense of injustice. Btw re mediation in MA I found this: umb.edu/mopc/what_we_do/projects/… (even if you don't want to propose mediation for this, you might want to for something else some day). Nov 7, 2021 at 19:46
  • Yep, thanks. I appreciate the concern. There is also the issue of a disabled person. That would really screw them. Anyway, I just love talking to you but we gotta stop, my friend. :) Five minutes to deletion. :)
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2021 at 19:58

As Japanese has no articles or concept of noun singular or plural, "Take Free" would not burden the ears of a native Japanese speaker.
It does burden the English speaker. The imperative "take" is clearly a verb, but it has no grammatical object. "Free" , alone, is hard to compute in English as an object, and probably wouldn't be one in any event. "Free" is just too much an adjective.

Take one free

is better.

Please take one

is fine


would work as well. While "free", alone, has no article indicating a number, "free" alone creates no burden on the English speaker.

  • Thank you, everyone, for your great help. It's much clearer now. Teruko Feb 21, 2017 at 12:34
  • 5
    'Take one free' sounds just as off. 'Free. Take one.' is OK
    – Mitch
    Feb 21, 2017 at 14:14

I would also add "free for the taking" to the list. But "take free" while sounding strange to native English speakers could be allowed for brevity.

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