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In sentences such as: Jana will pay for the drinks. or Will the kids have to pay?. Why is it okane o haraimasu instead of ... o haraimasu?

[Correct] Examples: Jana san wa nomimono no okane o haraimasu. or Komodo wa okane o haraimasu ka?

Are [seemingly incorrect examples] Jana san wa nomimono o haraimasu. or Komodo wa haraimasu ka? [gramatically] wrong or "odd"? When I see okane o haraimasu, I want to ask, "well what else is he/she going to pay with? Barrels?".

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    I know it was a rhetorical question, but coupons and credit cards are 2 of many options other than money. – lukini Apr 20 '15 at 22:00
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The short answer is "because Japanese speakers will it to be that way."

The pedagogical answer is that 払う operates on お金, not the thing you're paying for. This is exactly the same as in English. You don't "pay drinks." You pay for drinks. Drinks are not the direct object in English or Japanese.

The money is the direct object, so you follow it with を.

If you want to say "to pay for X" in Japanese you can say Xの代金を払う for example. This is literally "to pay the bill/price for X."

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You can't

✗ "pay the drinks"
✗ 飲み物を払う

in English either, even though you can

○ "pay the bill"
○ 勘定を払う

○ "pay the rent"
○ 家賃を払う

○ "pay attention"
○ 注意を払う

In other words, 「〜を払う」 corresponds more closely to "to pay ~" than "to pay for ~", which should not be surprising considering that is the syntactic equivalent.


As to why Japanese uses 「〜のお金を払う」 instead of 「〜に払う」 (i.e., an indirect object) to express "paying for" something...

In English there are a ton of uses for "for": 32 according to the Random House Dictionary. The relevant one here is categorized as

8. in consideration or payment of; in return for: three for a dollar; to be thanked for one's efforts.

While some of the uses in that dictionary entry are accomplished by 「〜に」 in Japanese, certainly not all of them are, including this one. You often need more complex expressions like 「〜を目的として」、「〜のための」、「〜に関して」, etc., and this is one of those cases. Prepositions/postpositions are often extremely overloaded in languages, and they evolve over time by people using them for related-but-slightly-different purposes, naturally allowing for extremely branched meanings in different languages.

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