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Are all variants absolutely correct and equivalent? If not, what's the difference?

  • Sie bezahlen die Bestellung per PayPal
  • Sie bezahlen für die Bestellung per PayPal
  • Sie bezahlen die Bestellung mit der Kreditkarte
  • Sie bezahlen für die Bestellung mit der Kreditkarte
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  • The definite article in the two latest examples is not required. If previous context did not establish a certain credit card, the sentence appears better without, i. e. mit Kreditkarte. This is a classical example of Nullartikel, dropping the article if the generic thing is intended.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 6:50

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Simply: yes, they are all correct and equivalent. (Well, paying by PayPal and paying by credit card are not the same thing of course, so they're not equivalent in that respect.)

For Paypal, I would personally prefer "per Paypal" to "mit Paypal" in more formal language, because it fits the abstract notion of "sending money using Paypal" better. I would have no problem saying "per Kreditkarte" though, I would probably even slightly prefer that when talking about online payment that doesn't involve using the actual card.

Strangely, the accusative object of "bezahlen" can have two very different meanings:

You can say:

Ich habe das Essen (accusative object) mit meiner Kreditkarte bezahlt.

but also:

Ich habe fürs Parken einen Euro (accusative object) bezahlt.

So the accusative object can either denote what you paid for, or it can mean the amount you paid. It can not be used for the method of payment though (PayPal, credit card, Überweisung etc.).

So this does not work:

incorrect: Ich habe für das Essen meine Kreditkarte bezahlt.

It's also not possible to use both meanings of the accusative object in one sentence, you need to use a preposition for one of them:

incorrect: Ich habe das Essen 10 Euro bezahlt.
correct: Ich habe für das Essen 10 Euro bezahlt.
correct: Ich habe das Essen mit 10 Euro bezahlt.
correct: Ich habe für das Essen mit 10 Euro bezahlt.

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  • One might note that while "Ich habe das Essen mit 10€ bezahlt" is totally correct, it somewhat implies there are or might be alternative payment modes available... like "Ich habe das Essen mit einer Stunde körpernaher Dienstleistungen / Umgraben des gesamten Gartens / meiner Gesundheit / ... bezahlt" ;) Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 21:20
  • Thanks @HalvarF for your great explanation. The root cause of the question was that we had been provided with 4 German phrases about 4 different payment methods, and 3 of those phrases didn't contain the für, while specifically the phrase about PayPal did contain it. In terms of software design it makes it a bit more difficult work for a developer, because otherwise we could use the same template for all the cases: "Sie bezahlen die Bestellung ...", but it doesn't work for PayPal, as we need to add the für and therefore have an additional template.
    – JustAndrei
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 7:20
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    @JustAndrei: Ah, I see. Yes, you can use the same template ("Sie bezahlen die Bestellung ") for all payment methods.
    – HalvarF
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 10:20

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