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Your English: Word grammar: free

Type: Article

They say the best things in life are free. This certainly seems true in the case of Tim Bowen's Your English articles: excellent Word grammar bytes, all for free!

The adjective free has a number of different meanings and uses. If something is free, it does not cost anything (free parking; admission is free; a free gift). This meaning also occurs when free is used as an adverb, as in ‘We got in free’. If a person is free, they are not a prisoner or a slave, as in 'He will soon be a free man again'. Free can also mean 'not held, fixed or tied to somewhere', as in 'With his free hand he carefully unfastened his belt’ and 'not limited or controlled by rules', e.g. ‘Officials want free access to all suspect nuclear sites’. A similar meaning to the latter can be found in expressions like free elections or free speech, where free means ‘allowed to decide for yourself what you do, say or think, without being controlled by someone in authority’.

When followed by the prepositions from or of, free means 'not containing or involving something unpleasant', as in ‘We want to give all children a world free from violence’ and ‘It was a relaxing atmosphere, free of tension’. When followed by the preposition for, free means available to see someone, do something or go somewhere, eg ‘Are you free for lunch?’ Free can also be followed by the preposition with in the expression ‘to be free with’. If you are free with your opinions or comments, you say so much that it annoys other people. As a suffix, –free can be used with a number of nouns to make adjectives, e.g. fat-free, tax-free, sugar-free and so on.

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