Three for a quid: talking about money

by Liz Walter​
When teaching an intermediate class recently, I was surprised to find that very few of the students (who were from various parts of the world) knew how to say prices, so this blog will explain this very basic function and also look at some other vocabulary connected with money.

First, the prices. There is more than one correct way to say a price, but the most common one is simply to say the number of pounds followed by the number of pence (or the number of dollars followed by the number of cents):

£3.50 ‘Three fifty’

$4.95 ‘Four ninety five’

Sometimes we also say the words pounds, pence, dollars, or cents in the price. There is no difference, and neither way is better or worse. In American English, if you use these words, you have to say and in the middle. In British English, you can say and or leave it out:

£1.45 ‘One pound and forty five pence’ or ‘One pound forty five pence’

$20.80 ‘Twenty dollars and eighty cents’

If the price is an exact number of pounds or dollars, you must use those words:

£50.00 ‘Fifty pounds’

$760.00 ‘Seven hundred and sixty dollars’

We often say a instead of one before prices of £100, £1,000, etc. and also any price from £100 – £199:

£1,000,000 ‘a million pounds’ or ‘one million pounds’

$134 ‘a hundred and thirty four dollars’ or ‘one hundred and thirty four dollars’

If a British price is less than a pound, we can pronounce it in two ways:

50p ‘Fifty pence’ ‘Fifty pee

For an American price less than a dollar, use cents.

If you are in Britain, you should also be aware that we often use informal words for money. For instance, we say quid instead of pound: I spent fifty quid on food today.

The usual British word for paper money is note. However, we often call a five pound note a fiver and a ten pound note a tenner. There is no common informal word for a twenty pound note.

To talk about coins, we often use the word piece, or more informally bit: a fifty/twenty pence piece

Americans call paper money bills, and a 10 cent piece is called a dime.

One final word of warning: do not – as my students tried to do – use the word ‘point’ when you are saying a price such as £2.30 – that is only for mathematics!

13 thoughts on “Three for a quid: talking about money

  1. Luc007

    May I add that a 5 cent coin is called a “nickel”, and a 25 cent coin a “quarter”. Also, people informally refer to thousands as “grand” (e.g. “he paid thirty grand for his car”). “Quid” and “grand” never take an “s”, even when used in plural (e.g. “one quid”, “twenty quid” – “one grand”, “fifty grand”).
    Lastly, “penny” makes “pennies” in plural, when refering to money in general terms (e.g. “pennies and pounds”), but always makes “pence” in plural when refering to a precise number or price (e.g. “fifteen pence” or “how many pence did you say ?”).

  2. To add a few more American slang terms: the $1 bill is often called a “single,” and other bills are referred to simply by numbers. For instance, “Can you give me change for this twenty? I’d like a ten, a five, and five singles.” The higher denominations are sometimes referred to by the portrait on the bill: a “Grant” is worth $50 and a “Franklin” is worth $100, the highest denomination in general circulation. When an enterprise (often illegal) is said to be “all about the Franklins,” it’s all about making as much cash as possible.

    1. Andre' Chavez

      yeah I disagree about the 100 dollar bill being called Franklin’s, the way to correctly say (in USA ghetto-speak) $100.00 dollars would be Benjamin’s… it’s all about the Benjamin’s baby. also we call 100 dollar bills a c-note.

  3. Pingback: Topical lexis | ELT Infodump

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