I'm not a native speaker of English but still it feels wrong to say:

  • paid university
  • paid entrance
  • paid parking
  • paid service
  • paid consultation
  • paid healthcare
  • paid toilet
  • paid fare

Or does it? What would the correct adjective to use instead? I know can easily use "free" with all these nouns if I want to say it's free of charge.

  • 1
    Paid seems to be the standard usage for that particular meaning. Words often enough "feel" wrong (or foreign, even alien), for some reason. Maybe because written language, especially, is something we have to learn in order to function in society. – Bread May 12 '18 at 10:16
  • @Bread I just have never encountered them. I've even tried to google them and very little popped up in the search hmm – Dunno May 12 '18 at 10:23
  • 1
    Examples of paid used in identical context are given here: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paid ~ Paid in this context is one of those past participle verbs which is being used as an adjective. We've recently covered that language phenomenon on other questions. – Bread May 12 '18 at 10:43
  • @bread phrases such as paid review, job, scheme, leave, service, staff, work, bill never bothered me cos I see them all the time. – Dunno May 12 '18 at 11:03
  • The word 'chargeable' is also used but in a context where one would be invoiced, rather than be paying cash on the spot. 'Chargeable to your account' is the full expression. – Nigel J May 12 '18 at 12:07

To be honest, most of the examples you give sound awkward, but I can't think of an alternative for some of them, especially in cases where the default is that they are not free (e.g., university):

Q: Is this a free university?

A: No, I had to pay for it.

In some cases, you would say pay (rather than paid), at least in US English. "Pay toilet" sounds more natural to me (we used to have devices called "pay phones").

"Paid parking" is common.

"Paid fare," "paid consultant," etc. are redundant, and don't make much sense.

  • See! That's what I'm talking about. They do sound awkward even to me. Well There are free consultants cos the government pays them in my country. Free fares are for children under the age of 7. Ok the whole thing has become even more puzzling. Which others I can use the word pay with besides toilet? – Dunno May 12 '18 at 12:22

chargeable services

For whatever service that is not paid, i.e., gratis, free, or pro bono if legal assistance is sought; as the client, you will be charged a fee.

Since 2003, many UK law firms and law schools have celebrated an annual Pro Bono Week, which encourages solicitors and barristers to offer pro bono services and increases general awareness of pro bono service.

Oxford Dictionaries define the term charge as

1. Demand (an amount) as a price for a service rendered or goods supplied.

  • ‘wedding planners may charge an hourly fee of up to £150’

1. A price asked for goods or services.

‘our standard charge for a letter is £25’

Cambridge Dictionary defines the adjective chargeable as

If something is chargeable, you can be asked to pay for it:

a chargeable service

chargeable parking or paid parking

For parking, the expression parking charges is frequently used and the request, How much do they charge for parking? is easily understood. However, parking lots (US) and car parks (UK) which are not free are often called paid parking lots or paid car parks.

private healthcare

In the UK, healthcare is either public, a.k.a the National Health Service, or private (paid for). In the UK and the US it is also called private healthcare, private medicine, or private medical insurance.

The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded national healthcare system for England … It is the largest single-payer healthcare system in the world. Primarily funded through the general taxation system and overseen by the Department of Health, NHS England provides healthcare to all legal English residents, with most services free at the point of use.

private school & fee-charging university

Similarly, “free education” is funded by the state (which is ultimately financed by taxpayers) and taught in state-run schools called state schools whereas schools that charge tuition fees are termed private schools. A private school in the US typically means fee-taking. Confusingly, in the UK, they are known as public schools. Often but not always they are boarding schools.

In the context of higher/further education, the OP could use the expression fee-paying or fee-charging universities.

free vs paid

All of the above can be supplied free of charge or paid for, by private individuals or groups.

  • I'm not asking if I can use "free". I know I can. I'm asking about the opposite of free. Please read the question carefully – Dunno May 12 '18 at 17:19
  • @Dunno I have also given the opposite, it's "paid for" and "charge" as in what is the "charge"? (noun) and its verbal equivalent "charge a fee" . I also explained that healthcare is either "public" or "private" – Mari-Lou A May 12 '18 at 17:58
  • How would I use it with those nouns then? Paid-for university? charge isn't a adjective. – Dunno May 12 '18 at 22:06

Although it is difficult to find a word antonymous with free to be suitably used in all the contexts given by the OP, I think, the following suggestions can be acceptable.

  1. Free university (education) X expensive, Costly university (education).
  2. Free entrance X chargeable entrance.
  3. Free parking X paid parking.
  4. Free service X chargeable service.
  5. Free consultation X paid consultation.
  6. Free health care X expensive health care.
  7. Free toilet X pay toilet.
  8. Free fare (in the sense of a free ticket to travel, the opposite can be a paid ticket). Here there is a mentioning of paying a ticket fare.
  • I don't mean to say it's expensive. I just mean it costs money. It doesn't have to be an expensive one – Dunno May 12 '18 at 14:54
  • Yes, it means that you have some expense or to pay some cost; it's not free. Please see the linked dictionary (sense 5) which gives expensive as a possible antonym for free. – mahmud k pukayoor May 12 '18 at 15:00

I do not think there is any standard word that represents the opposite of the word ‘free’.

There is a simple reason for this. It is (and for millennia has been) in the nature of human transactions that that goods and services are provided for the payment of money in return. Therefore, the default position is that good and services are paid for, so that we don’t need an adjective to tell us so.

So it is the exceptions to this general norm, which we identify with a specific word, ’free’.

The obvious exception of which I am aware is the private school, which is regularly described as ’fee-paying’.

Historically, there have been things that have been free. In Roman times were the famous “bread and circuses”. But these were political measures to bribe the political support or civil quiescence of the urban masses. The kingdoms of islam had vakoufs, charitable foundations which provided a variety of public services at the expense of the royal or powerful. These too were, in effect, gifts of the royal, rich or powerful: charity, if you will. Interestingly, one modern Greek adjective for ’free’ means literally ‘as a gift: dorean - δωρεαν.

In the U.K. since the end of WWII, most aspects of health-care and education (including, till comparatively recently, higher education up to the first degree) have been free to the users.

Dentistry is now widely paid for because of shortage in the supply of dentists. Higher education is part paid for and part free.

Of course, when we call something ‘free’ it is not literally free as air. Someone pays for it. The things I might have are paid for either by me or by the state or by charitable donation (or ‘not for profit’). And the payer, as we are often reminded, is the ‘long suffering tax payer’. And the State, sometimes called the public purse.

For that reason, the contrast between paid for and not paid for is most commonly expressed in terms of, for example, public and private health, education and care. So, if I can afford it, I might for one reason or another decide to have a treatment done privately. That means I pay for it (are my insurance does).

An interesting example is museums. From the 19th century, civic and national museums were key elements of public education, and so were free. Private museums were usually paid for. But no one ever talked about their being free. Nobody thought about paying or not paying: they just went. When under Margaret Thatcher, the great museums had to have paid entry, many declared they ought to be free. But the expression charged or* *paid or fee-paying never arose.

There are words that might do:

paid, charged (for), fee-paying, etc...

But they do not seem to be in common use. I found from a Google search only one use of paid. It was a headline in the Maidenhead Advertiser:

Bucks Council in U-Turn Over Controversial Paid Parking Plan for Marlow.

But of course headline writers are seeking to minimise the number of words.

  • Well you see I live in a country with a socialist history. So the remnants of that time are still around and services such as healthcare and education are kind of free. Sure you can go to a private clinic. Also you can go to a government healthcare centre to pay to visit a doctor earlier or better doctor. The same goes for education. 99,5 of all the unis in the country are owned by the government. Free seats are limited. Most people end up paying for it. We have an adjective paid that would work with all those nouns just fine. I don't think it has anything to do with capitalism or not – Dunno May 13 '18 at 11:41
  • If there's not a single adjective that's fine I can use a few adjectives depending on the noun I have. It's nothing new for the English language. – Dunno May 13 '18 at 11:42
  • @Dunno How interesting. There might be many ways to get around that. You can talk of commercial services, paid for services, privately operated services and so forth. – Tuffy May 13 '18 at 12:40
  • Can you tell what kinds of adjective should I use with those nouns. I 'll try to interpolate from there – Dunno May 17 '18 at 19:04
  • @Dunno Mahmoud already gave you a fair list. But what is the word for ‘charged for’ in your language? – Tuffy May 18 '18 at 15:02

The phrases listed by the OP indeed seem awkward, but what makes them awkward is not the same in all cases.

(1) It is generally known that professional consultations, for example, usually need to be paid for, and that’s why we almost never hear the phrase ‘paid consultation’. Because we hear it so rarely, it strikes us as odd, even though it is perfectly true that most professional consultations are, in fact, paid consultations. We do, however, sometimes hear the phrase ‘free consultation’, as it is sometimes necessary to make it clear that some particular consultations are different from the default. That phrase, consequently, does not strike us as odd. (The cases in which ‘paid consultation’ does need to be used are those in which the context may have created some impression that that the consultation could be free, and that impression then needs to be cancelled. Such cases are much less frequent than those of free consultations.)

(2) Some of the listed phrases can be ambiguous. ‘Paid service’, for example, is sometimes used to convey the idea that the service has already been paid for, in contrast to a service for which the payment is still pending; this is a very different use of ‘paid’, from its use in contrast to ‘free’. To steer clear of this ambiguity, careful writers and speakers may avoid such phrases, and use some more elaborate wording instead.

(3) Those who offer something for free, are usually motivated to make that known. Phrases such as ‘free parking’, often written in big, bold letters are thus prominent in advertisements. A business that offers paid parking, on the other hand, has no reason to make the phrase ‘paid parking’ prominent in its advertisements, even though it is, in fact, true that it does offer it.

(4) Saying that something needs to be paid for, may be taken to constitute asking for money, and politeness requires that requests for money be worded delicately. A business that charges for parking is thus likely to say something like ‘parking is available for a small additional charge’ rather than just ‘paid parking’. Instead of ‘this is a paid service’ we may see ‘a charge for this service will be added to your bill’.

Some combination of these reasons can probably explain why the phrases listed by the OP sound awkward. It should be noted that they all concern pragmatics, rather than semantics: that is, they explain how there can be an asymmetry between the ways ‘free’ and ‘paid’ are used, even if it is assumed that there is a symmetry between their meanings, considered in isolation.

  • @jws29 Check my reply to Tuffy in this thread. That's what makes it tricky. And My country is far from being the only one outside countries where English is spoken. So I'm trying to figure how I should convey those ideas in English (2) Yes you're totally right. It's ambiguous in English. In my language there are 2 adjectives. One means paid other means that that service is chargeable. In English however there's no word that would fit the meaning of chargeable in all the situations. I'm trying to figure what adjectives with what nouns I should use get my point across in English. – Dunno May 17 '18 at 19:08
  • Not a westerner so politeness isn't a concern. We don't engage in fake posturing. Nothing is free. (3) Again I can refer you to I wrote to Tuffy. The focus is on the paid stuff haha it might seems weird to you but that's how it is outside of countries where English is spoken. That's the reason I wrote of those nouns to figure what nouns goes with what adjectives and apply the general idea to other nouns. – Dunno May 17 '18 at 19:11

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