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What Is Quid Pro Quo?

Updated on October 11, 2019
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

Quid pro quo is a Latin expression, and some people are not familiar with it. However, in the last few weeks, people have heard it more than usual. It has been used many times by political experts when they have talked about the United States President Donald Trump's telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Quid Pro Quo: Definition

Quid pro quo is a Latin expression; therefore, it is not found in English dictionaries. The expression means an exchange of goods, services, or flavors. It is the act of someone doing something for someone else in which a favor is contingent upon the favor of another. An item or a service is traded in return for something of similar value,

Here is a list of things the expression means. After going through the list, you will understand what it means and how it relates to the scandal concerning President Trump and his Ukrainian telephone call.

Quid Pro Quo: Meanings

Phrases with similar meanings:

  • something for something
  • favor for favor
  • give and take
  • tit for tat
  • a substitution of something
  • you do me a favor and I'll do you a favor
  • you scratch my back, and I'll scratch your back
  • one hand washes the other
  • one good turn deserves another
  • I will give you so that you will give me
  • You give me what you have, and I will give you what I have
  • an exchange of this for that

Animals scratching each other backs. That's because it is difficult to scratch your own back but easy for someone else to do it.
Animals scratching each other backs. That's because it is difficult to scratch your own back but easy for someone else to do it. | Source

The Exchange Is Equal in Value

In a quid pro quo relationship, both parties give something and both parties receive something in exchange for what he has given. No one should lose in a proper quid pro quo relationship. Each person walks away with something of value. However, if one person gives something and receives nothing of similar value, then the exchange is not a fair quid pro quo.

Some exchanges might be one-sided. That simply means one good or service is value excessively more than the other. Courts in some jurisdictions might determine that a quid pro quo situation did not actually exist and the transaction may be voided. Companies cross ethical boundaries when that happens. An example is promising someone a sweater in exchange for a car. Surely a car is more valuable than a sweater even if the car is old and the sweater is new.

Illegal Quid Pro Quo Examples

It is illegal in the United States for authority figures to promise special favors to someone for money. That is called bribery when the exchange takes place.

It is also illegal in the United States when a boss promises a promotion or a better job if a sexual favor is granted. That is called workplace sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. That type of quid pro quo goes against labor laws.

We have heard a lot about workplace sexual harassment in the news recently. Many of our favorite television CEOs, supervisors and people in authority have lost their lucrative jobs, marriages, and reputations because their quid pro quo agreements were exposed after they had gone on for years. This is also a classic example among politicians and people in authority over big corporations.

There are labor laws to protect the innocent in illegal quid pro quo cases not only in the United States but in other countries as well.


School children use quid pro quo often when they exchange their lunch or something from their lunch. However, it might be years before they understand the name of the act they are performing when they get rid of what they don't want and gain something they do want.

Pay Attention to the Expression

You will now have a better understanding of the Latin expression when you hear it from now on. You are sure to hear it many times as long as there are discussions about the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Critics are insisting there was a quid pro quo situation involved when Trump withheld millions of dollars from Ukraine but later released it when Trump asked the Ukrainian President to do him a favor by looking into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Those who are supporting and speaking up for President Trump say there was no quid pro quo.

Did you already know the meaning of "quid pro quo"?

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