What does ‘pay’ mean?

The word ‘pay’ can mean many different things. As a verb, it means to give money for goods or a service provided or suffer a consequence.

For example:

  • You pay for the drinks and i’ll pay for lunch. (give money for goods or a service provided)
  • The murderer will pay the price for his crime. (suffer a consequence)

pay is an irregular verb. The past tense is paid and the past participle is paid. I’ll give you an example sentence of each tense:

  • I always pay the rent on time. (present)
  • The boss paid his employees and gave them a bonus. (past simple)
  • I have paid for the tickets on my card, you can pay me back on pay day. (past participle)

idioms list with ‘pay’

  • if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys – if you pay low wages, the workers will be bad
    e.g. My boss is always shouting about product standards. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
  • pay one’s dues – earn respect/rights/a position by hard work, experience, sacrifice
    e.g. He paid his dues on the front line, now he’s a General.
  • pay one’s way – contribute, pay for oneself
    e.g. Luke can come as long as he pays his way. I’m not made of money.
  • pay over the odds – pay more than something is really worth
    e.g. I’m willing to pay over the odds for a Thai meal. It’s my favourite type of food.
  • pay someone off – give someone the money you owe them or bribe
    e.g. The CEO paid off his employees to keep them quiet about his illegal activities.
  • pay the price – suffer the consequences of your actions e.g. If you don’t quit smoking, you’ll pay the price later in life.
  • pay through the nose – pay way too much
    e.g. We paid through the nose for our house renovation.
  • pay top dollar – pay a lot of money for something
    e.g. We pay top dollar for our children’s school. We want them to have good jobs when they’re older.
  • pay up-front – payment before you get the goods or services
    e.g. I paid up-front for a wedding photographer, but he never came.

Let’s see these idioms with pictures and meaning using real-life scenarios.

verb phrases - pay
Idioms with verbs - PAY - If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys
pay idioms - pay one’s dues
pay idioms - pay one’s way
Idioms with verbs - PAY - pay over the odds
verb phrase - pay through the nose
Idioms with verbs - PAY - pay the price
pay idioms - pay top dollar
verb phrase - pay up-front
Idioms with verbs - PAY - pay someone off