In barter deals... Say, a farmer wants to exchange his chickens for French lessons. Do we say like " A farmer pays a tutor in chickens" OR... "A farmer pays a tutor with chickens". My guess is that BOTH forms are correct in spoken English at least. But I'm not a native speaker, so I'm not 100% sure about that.

  • We don't say "like".
    – David
    Nov 22 '18 at 23:09
  • @David Some of us do, but they shouldn't!!!!
    – BoldBen
    Apr 19 '19 at 12:38
  • @BoldBen — Like using multiple exclamation marks!
    – David
    Apr 20 '19 at 15:54
  • @David sometimes I get carried away.
    – BoldBen
    Apr 22 '19 at 2:07

"In" if the items used for payment are widely understood to be a token of exchange, similar to currency

The desk clerk presented me the bill which listed various currencies. I paid in US dollars.

They wanted 200 Swiss Francs. I paid in Euros.

The farmer didn't have cash to pay his neighbour to repair their shared fence, so he paid in chickens.

"With" if the items used for payment are not widely used as a token of exchange

The farmer tried to pay for his language lesson with chickens. "Quelle horreur!", exclaimed the startled lady, shooing them out of her house.


I would say:

"A farmer gives chickens in exchange for French lessons"


In exchange for French lessons, a farmer pays his tutor with chickens.

However, I guess you were asking if you should use "in" or "with"

"With" sounds better to my ears.

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    – choster
    Nov 21 '18 at 19:48

The expression "pay in chickens" is probably related to the term payment in kind which is defined by Longman's online dictionary as

a way of paying for something with goods or services instead of money

Using Google Ngrams to compare paid in chckens with paid with chickens indicates that, although both terms are very rare paid with chickens is rarer than paid in chickens. Repeating the Ngram analysis with "chickens" replaced by "fish", then with "wheat" and then other barter goods shows similar patterns, but with even fewer occurrences.

This suggests that, although both forms are rare, "paid in something" is rather more common than "paid with something", possibly because of the relation to "payment in kind".

  • Not sure it derives from payment in kind. We talk about paying in cash, in dollars, in gold bullion, in coin of the realm, in legal tender - in whatever you like. I would see payment in kind as an example of this pattern rather than the source of it.
    – user339660
    Apr 19 '19 at 13:36
  • @Minty You're probably right, I might have been overthinking it. However I still believe that I'm right about 'Paid in' being more common than 'Paid with'. However we would say "He bought the cow with magic beans", would never say "He bought the cow in magic beans" but might say "He bought the cow and paid for it in magic beans".
    – BoldBen
    Apr 20 '19 at 18:18
  • yes I'm sure it's more common. In is just for a unit, I think, like measure in cm or count in dozens. In all the examples with paid the unit relates to what we pay. With buy, it would relate to what we buy, hence she buys them in tens etc. If you want to say how you paid for it (using buy) that is means rather than unit so, as you say, with is required. It's different where whatever it is is not (just) a unit- he paid with the magic beans the mermaid had given him.
    – user339660
    Apr 21 '19 at 12:30
  • @Minty I like all of that, especially the last sentence. In that case it's hardly a unit at all. It's the same as He bought a new phone with the money his mother had given him. Not so much a unit, more a source.
    – BoldBen
    Apr 22 '19 at 1:50

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