Money, Monies, or Moneys?

I’ll take any to be honest, I’m not fussy. Ah, but linguistically, which is best?

Well, they’re all basically correct, but context does matter.

Money is always correct. You never need to use moneys/monies. I always find the word money interesting, linguistically. It’s an uncountable noun, meaning that you can’t say a money, and, strictly, you can pluralise it. But of course, even if it’s grammatically uncountable, as a word, money itself is eminently countable, especially if you’ve got plenty of it (I imagine).

It being uncountable can lead to some superficially strange-looking statements, especially for people whose native languages treat money as countable. One thousand euros is a lot of money, for example, might look a little odd, if you really look at it, because you’ve got a plural word (euros) followed by is, not are (though we saw before that this can happen in certain situations). Of course if you think about how we actually think about money, it makes sense. When you think about €5,000, you don’t think of 5,000 discrete euro coins. Rather, you think of it as one (large) mass of money, so it’s grammatically singular.

But if the word money is uncountable, and therefore not to be pluralised, what’s the story with monies then? It’s a slight exception to the grammatical rules about countable and uncountable nouns, and basically exists for the sake of precision. If you think about any time it’s used, it’s usually used in a legal or political sense. The basic idea behind pluralising it is to indicate that the money to fund something comes from a variety of sources, e.g. The monies needed to fund the project have been secured.

Of course, money would work just as well in that sentence, but legal language is based on precision, so money is effectively pluralised just in case it was ever necessary to make it clear that the money was secured from different sources.

No-one ever really thinks about that though, so monies is now effectively simply a formal business/political version of money.

What about the spelling though? Should it be monies or moneys? Now that’s where it gets really interesting!

Which seems better to you? My instinct was to spell it monies, and that seems to be the most common spelling. But think about it: does that really seem correct?

If you’re not sure, pluralise these words:

 

lily

city

hippy

 

Pretty easy, isn’t it? Lilies, cities, hippies. When you pluralise a word ending in Y, you change the -y to -ies, that’s the rule, right?

Well, what about these?

monkey

donkey

bay

Ah ha! Monkeys, donkeys, and bays (what a great weekend). And boys, toys, joys, ways, keys, etc. So if the -y is preceded by a vowel, we just add S to make the noun plural. So, shouldn’t it be moneys then?

Well, yes, but pluralising money isn’t as natural to us as pluralising monkey (that was a great weekend). We don’t unconscously just add the S out of habit from seeing it written like that, so our brain doesn’t naturally leap to moneys as being obviously correct.

And monies look OK, doesn’t it? I think it’s because it’s only six letters long. Monkies and donkies look weird to me, but monies looks OK. If we want to talk about different types of honey, the correct plural form is honeys, but honies would look OK too.

And taste OK too. So look, don’t worry too much about how whether to use money or monies, or how to spell it. It’s hard to wrong. Just make sure you’ve got as much of the stuff as you need, and don’t put too much time and effort into getting it.

2 thoughts on “Money, Monies, or Moneys?

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