Saturday, November 17

Payment English

When talking about transactions or matters involving money, there are so many different words we can use. And it gets complicated choosing the right one.

Here are the top 10 most common English words associated with money and payment:

  1. Cost

  2. Fare

  3. Fine

  4. Check / Bill  

  5. Rent

  6. (5.5.) Cheque

  7. Tuition

  8. Paycheck

  9. Payroll

  10. Price

  11. Fee / Charge

Let’s discuss each of them…

# 1. Cost

First of all, “cost.”

Cost” can be used both as Noun and as Verb. This is why learners have trouble with this word. Most of the time, they try to use it as a Noun.

This way:

What cost is this bag? = X

As a matter of fact, “cost” is more often used as a Verb. So, you’d better start remembering it as one. This word will be much easier to use once you keep this in mind.


How much does this bag cost? = Ok

That bag costs ____ dollars. = Ok

# 2. Fare

Next, “fare.”

Fare” is used to talk about the amount that you pay for a journey. So, fare is connected to means of transportation.

For example,

taxi fare, bus fare, airfare etc.

# 3. Fine

Fine” (Noun) means the amount that you pay as a punishment for breaking a law or rule.


He had to pay a $250 fine for speeding.

She got a heavy fine.

# 4. Check

Check” is a word that non-native speakers often misunderstand. This is because they usually think of this word as a Verb.

They know the common phrase used in a restaurant

Check please.

(And perhaps the corresponding gesture that varies in each country and culture.)

But they think the complete message that they’re telling the server is:

"Please check how much I should pay." = X

This is wrong. In fact, the word “check” – also “bill” – is a Noun.

So, the complete sentence that we ask our servers is:

Could I get / have the check please? = Ok

all images courtesy of stock.xchng

You can use either “bill” or “check” here. They will mean the same thing.

Check” is used chiefly in the US and “bill” is usual in the UK.

# 5. Rent

Rent” is the amount that you pay for the use of a property ex. an apartment, house etc. that belongs to another person.

In this sense, it’s enough to just say “pay the rent.” And it will be redundant and wrong to say “pay the rental fee,” which is how some students say it.

# 5.5. Check

I included this word because it’s different from # 4. Check / Bill and # 7. Paycheck. Nevertheless, learners often mix these words up.

A “check” is a piece of printed paper that your bank gives you so you can pay for things without using money.

Ex. Do you want to pay in cash, by check or by credit card?

I have a check for $_____.

He made out the check to me then signed it.

*Note: The British spelling of this word is “cheque.”

# 6. Tuition

Tuition” is the amount that you pay to take lessons – in a university, private school etc.

You can say either “tuition” or “tuition fees.”

# 7. Paycheck

A “paycheck” is, traditionally, the check (#5.5) that is given to an employee for his or her work.

These days, we have electronic paychecks. And most employers will deposit your paycheck directly into your bank account.

However, the expression "paycheck" is still used figuratively in many countries. 

It would be better though to differentiate this word from "payslip" or "pay stub" which is the printed notice that usually comes together with the paycheck.

# 8. Payroll

Although “payroll” looks very similar to the word right above (paycheck), they have completely different meanings.

Payroll” is the total amount of money that a company pays to all of its employees. Or, it’s a list of all the employees who work for a company and the money that each of them earns.


I’m currently on the payroll of a small software company.

In short, unless you’re part of the Finance or HR Department which is in charge of your company's payroll, the word you’re probably looking for is # 7 (paycheck). 

# 9. Price

Price” means the amount that we pay to buy something.

This is why for the average English learner, it’s a good idea to remember this word and associate this with goods inside a store or shop.


The iPads range in price from $ ____ to $ ____.

The shoes are being sold at half price.

The price of bread rose.

You have to remember though that “price” is a Noun while “cost” (#1) is a Verb.

# 10. Fee / Charge

These two words are sometimes used in other situations like:


Admission/ entrance fee

Annual fee

Late fee

Doctor’s fee

Admission charge

Service charge

Delivery charge

Monthly charge


Hope you learned something!

Keep on learning !

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