“Everything’s a $1”

No. Everything is not “a $1.” Everything is $1. In a construction like this one, the indefinite article “a” is unnecessary. We read “$1” as “a dollar,” or “one dollar.” Since we wouldn’t say “everything’s a one dollar” or “everything’s a a dollar,” we don’t need the “a” in the sentence.

I went to the Dollar Store’s website to be sure they weren’t using the improper structure and was pleased to see they weren’t. However, they’re now accepting coupons–but from only one manufacturer, apparently. That’s what “manufacturer’s coupons” means. If they were accepting them from more than one, the copy would read “manufacturers’ coupons.” Or it should read that, I’ll wager. Whoever proofed this copy missed that fine point. (They did, however, spell “cornucopia” correctly, which made me smile.)

Here’s the site; see for yourselves.

We could also discuss that “Teacher’s Corner,” since apparently only one teacher is allowed to use it. However, now we’re straying quite far from my actual topic: how to write about monetary items. So, back to that.

Let’s say someone owes you a quantity of money, perhaps $100. You’d say: “He owes me a hundred dollars.” If you need to write that out, you could either write just what you said, or you could use a dollar sign and numerals: “He owes me $100.” You do not need the indefinite article “a” if you use “$100.” It’s the same principle as in the first paragraph of this blog entry. If you can use the indefinite article with the amount of money, you can apply this rule when writing. Try substituting “a dollar” for “a hundred dollars” and you’ll see what I mean. Then try with “a thousand dollars.” (It doesn’t work with amounts like “$50” or “$500,” though. We don’t say “He owes me a fifty dollars.” We might say “He bet me a $50 bill,” however. See the difference? Keep reading.)

If he pays you with a single bill, you can say “He paid me with a $100 bill.” Omitting the “a” in that case is incorrect; you wouldn’t say “he paid me with hundred-dollar bill,” so you wouldn’t leave out the “a” if you use the format “$100 bill.”  Yes, it’s utterly confusing. It’s English. It’s supposed to be confusing. Continuing this train of thought: If he paid you with a quantity of $1 bills, you might say: “He paid me with a hundred $1 bills,” or “He paid me with 100 $1 bills,” or even “He paid me with 100 one-dollar bills” or “He paid me with 100 dollar bills.” They’re all correct, technically. So is “He paid me with a hundred one-dollar bills.” (Style guides will vary in their answers as to which form is more correct than another. I’m not going there. Check your style guide, if you’re really interested.)

If you’re confused, feel free to ask questions in the comments or to email me directly. I promise I’ll explain until you understand it.

I leave you with this final thought:

"I'd buy that for a dollar!"

2 thoughts on ““Everything’s a $1”

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