A fee vs. a fine

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WRONG: I parked illegally so the policeman gave me a fee .
RIGHT: I parked illegally so the policeman gave me a fine.

Fine and fee are words that are often confused by my students. They both involve paying money and as a result, get mixed up.

A fine is an amount of money paid when you have done something wrong with the authorities. So, for example, if you drive too fast and a policeman stops you, you have to pay a fine.

A fee is an amount of money paid for a service, or a membership. So, for example, when you join a gym you might pay a membership fee.

So do you pay a fee on public transport? No, sorry, we have a completely different word that also begins with f – fare. Confused? Let’s try and put all three together:

A: How much is a 30-minute fare on Prague metro?
B: It’s 24kc and make sure you pay it because otherwise, you will get a fine!
A: Good tip. I can’t afford to pay a fine right now because I just paid an expensive membership fee for my gym and I’m broke!