The word free is often encountered on the heels of the word for, and this combination sets some people’s teeth on edge. The main objection to the phrase for free is that, in this instance, free functions as an adverb rather than a noun and therefore should not be in the intimate company of the preposition for. Following this line of reasoning, a more correct phrasing would be to say that something is offered for nothing, for no charge, or some other combination of preposition + noun. Unfortunately for critics of the expression, English users do not agree. Despite its recent adoption in the mid-20th century and its informality, for free is in widespread use and is generally accepted in standard speech and writing.
They're giving out free tickets to the show.
The school newsletter is free.
After 10 years in jail, he was finally a free man.
The animal struggled to get free of the trap.
His legs became caught in the net, and he was unable to get himself free. Adverb
The gate opened, and the animals ran free.
Buy one, get one free. Verb
The gunman freed two of the hostages.
The animals were freed from their cages.
His legs became tangled in the net, and he was unable to free himself.
He was unable to free his legs from the net.
The animal struggled to free itself from the trap.
Hiring an assistant has freed him to spend more time with his family.
She encourages her students to free their imaginations. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.—Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2023 Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.—Bailey Richards, Peoplemag, 26 Sep. 2023 Naidoo has co-authored a free e-book for board directors called The Cyber Savvy Boardroom: Essentials Explained, which is available here.—Rob Sloan, WSJ, 25 Sep. 2023 In addition to accessing the site’s vast streaming library, Prime members also get other perks, including free two-day shipping (sometimes even one-day shipping), access to exclusive deals during Prime Day and Black Friday, discounts to Whole Foods Market and more.—Rudie Obias, Variety, 25 Sep. 2023 Dangerous notions—such as the value of liberal democracy, civil society, a free press, or an independent judiciary—have to be wiped out of public discourse, even at universities where they were once tolerated.—Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, 25 Sep. 2023 The artist did his work for free — and cherished every moment.—Chuck Schilken, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.—Kurt Knutsson, Fox News, 15 Sep. 2023 Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Boston.com/address-newsletter.—BostonGlobe.com, 15 Sep. 2023
In 2020, the space agency awarded Axiom Space up to $140 million to make at least one module to attach to the ISS, which c ould eventually be part of a new free-flying station.—Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Mar. 2023 Verlander helped Houston win the World Series for the second time in six seasons and won his third AL Cy Young Award before signing an $86.7 million, two-year contract with the free-spending Mets.—San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Feb. 2023 Since late 2020, Xi’s administration has made clear its distaste for the free-wheeling capitalism that tech giants like Alibaba embodied.—Anders Melin, Fortune, 17 Jan. 2023 But what came next was still to be expected — a year of free-falling.—Curbed, 21 Dec. 2022 The art also depicted phalluses, free-standing or attached to human figures.—Bybridget Alex, science.org, 7 Dec. 2022 Nearly all of its world map was a free-roaming open area, but the sections were still cordoned off from one another by way of a central hub town.—Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica, 18 Nov. 2022 One particularly stunning route will take you to Bridal Veil Falls, the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado.—Marissa Wolkenberg, Bon Appétit, 26 Sep. 2022 This year, Broward Health wants to expand by building a $25 million free-standing Emergency Room in Sunrise and by spending $6 million to lease and renovate a building across from its main hospital in Fort Lauderdale to move its executive offices and create multipurpose space.—Cindy Krischer Goodman, Sun Sentinel, 24 Sep. 2022
Biden’s request also included $8.5 billion for economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and $2.3 billion to free up more aid for Ukraine through the World Bank.—John Hudson, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2023 The Browns had a build-around defensive star in edge rusher Myles Garrett and a good offensive line that freed up resources elsewhere.—Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Sep. 2023 After years of painstaking negotiations with Iran, secretly mediated by Persian Gulf nations, top aides to President Biden had finally struck a deal on June 6 that would free four Americans held in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons.—Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023 So with the help of Church and Trench, who show up just in time, the Expendables free the villagers and take on Vilain’s army.—Richard Newby, Vulture, 22 Sep. 2023 Well, [Drew Boughton] was quoted at Comic Con saying that this was so wonderfully freeing.—Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Sep. 2023 There is something freeing and liberating in having the confidence to stand in your own truth.—Kyler Alvord, Peoplemag, 20 Sep. 2023 But that frees up $6 billion in Iran’s $53 billion annual budget—effectively boosting it by 11%.—Karl Vick, Time, 20 Sep. 2023 Amid the outcry, the girls were freed in September 1963.—Randi Kaye, CNN, 17 Sep. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'free.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Adjective, Adverb, and Verb
Middle English, from Old English frēo; akin to Old High German frī free, Welsh rhydd, Sanskrit priya own, dear
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a