Set us free

Free.

Few words in our English vocabulary are sweeter to our ear and eye. This word invariably brings us pleasure. It’s also versatile. As a verb, free means without bond or restraint.

Free this prisoner from jail; he is innocent.

Free can be an adverb.

The bookcase stands free of the wall.

Free can be an adjective, too, which probably is its most common use.

The team is giving away free tickets to the game.

Once I complete this final exam, I will be free.

But the word free is not a noun. Never. Free is not an amount, and here is where we who speak American-style English go astray. We misuse the word every time we use it this way. We see and hear “for free” in advertising and use it in conversation. A lot.

Sign up for our service, and we will send you movies for free.

(Sound of angry-sounding buzzer.) No, sorry. Free has many uses, but it is not a noun. It can’t be used as an object of the preposition “for.”

Five dollars is an amount. So it a thousand dollars. Free, however, is not an amount. It can, however, be used to indicate the absence of cost, as in:

Sign up for our service, and we will send you movie free.

The movies are free! They are not “for free.”

I hope this clears up any confusion on the matter. There is no charge for the lesson.

It’s free. (adjective modifying “it.”)

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