The Grammarphobia Blog

Money matters

Q: I’ve come across a grammar question at work that I hope you can help me with. In describing one of our programs in a publication, we have this sentence: “Over $1.3 million have already been awarded.” A style guide at my office suggests “have” here is correct, but I think it should be “has.” I can’t explain why, but this usage sounds better. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

A: Amounts of money are considered grammatically singular. So it should indeed be “Over $1.3 million has already been awarded.” And: “Five dollars is a lot to pay for a cup of coffee.”

If you were talking about coins or bills as things rather than as amounts of money, then you would use the plural: “Three tens and two singles are in his wallet, and two quarters are in his pocket.”

On a (distantly) related subject, I had a blog item a couple of years ago about the annoying inclination of bureaucrats and other stuffed shirts to use “monies” when plain old “money” would do the job.

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