I am trying to describe two types of related tasks that relate to a common goal.

The best I have come up with for what I am trying to say is some groups of tasks give 'partial payment' and some groups of tasks are 'all or nothing'.

Consider these contrived examples:

partial-payment tasks

  • One laborer gets $10 per box to move ten boxes; if the laborer moves just five boxes, he gets $50.
  • Steve sets a goal of painting every room in his house one weekend, but only completes three.

all-or-nothing tasks

  • One laborer gets $100 to move 10 boxes, but makes nothing if all 10 boxes are not moved.
  • A contractor is paid to paint every room in a house,and is paid 100% in full on completions (say materials are provided).

Pardon the examples, but I think you get my point. I am placing tasks into one of the two categories, but I would like better terms to describe these categories.

  • 1
    I think all-or-nothing sounds like a fine description of your second task type, but you might also consider do-or-die or COD (Cash on Delivery).
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 5:44

5 Answers 5


In my area, if I said I'd engaged a tradesman to redecorate all the rooms in my house, and someone wanted to know the payment basis, they'd probably ask...

Is that a pay-as-you-go or a fixed-price job?

In some contexts those terms might be replaced by piece-work and job lot.

  • It is possible that people may be looking at the tasks without ready access to the parent goals. Your 2nd set of word choices work well in this context. Thank you.
    – John R
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:50

For "partial payment" you're probably looking for "pro-rata", meaning in proportion.

For "all or nothing", perhaps simply "on completion" captures your intent.


I believe the first option is better known as "piecework"-- you get paid per piece for the work you do. (Theoretically this lets the worker set their own wage, if they can work fast enough.)

I don't know if there is an official term for the second type, since (to my mind) it is the default style of purchase agreement, but you could refer to it as "payable upon completion" or "payable on delivery".


Several of the answers seem to suggest that partial completion of a "fixed price job" or "payment on completion" would mean that there is no payment unless the project is fully completed. Legally, that may not be the case.

While this site considers general English usage, legal language can be a thing unto itself (often to the understandable distress of mere mortals). It even can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in its meaning and effect.

Even where the intent of an agreement (in legalese, a contract) is to require that a service provider do all of the tasks called for, there are many circumstances where a partial completion may result in partial, or even complete payment. There is a concept known as quantum meruit, meaning "what he deserves" or "the amount he is worth" which may provide payment for as much as has been done even if completion of the entire agreement was contemplated.

If the intent of the question is to describe a task legally to ensure completion, careful crafting is needed, such as "total completion is a prerequisite to any payment" or even "an absolute prerequisite."


The ones are extensively used in the IT industry however, I do think they can be used elsewhere..

Time and Material(T&M) is a pricing model that fits your description for partial-payment tasks

For all-or-nothing task the term you defined seems fit enough.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.