Expressions with time and money: should you add an “s” or not?

Pound or pounds? Minute or minutes?

This is one of those small, annoying grammar points that even very advanced learners of English can get wrong. When you have a phrase that contains an amount, such as a price in pounds, it can be difficult to know if you should add an “s” or not (pound / pounds).

Look at these examples:

a. I bought a seventy pound jacket.

b. I bought a jacket for seventy pounds.

A typical mistake that a lot of learners make is to say: “I bought a *seventy pounds jacket”.

So, what’s the difference?

In sentence a the phrase seventy pound is like an adjective. You could replace seventy pound with the word expensive:

I bought an expensive jacket.

So, if the phrase could be replaced by an adjective you DON’T add an -s.

In sentence b the phrase seventy pounds is like a noun. You could replace this with another phrase containing a noun:

I bought a jacket for a lot of money.

If the phrase is like a noun, you DO add the -s.

Here are some more examples:

A forty dollar bag.
Hannah spent forty dollars on a bag.

A three hundred euro ticket.
My ticket cost three hundred euros.

We also use this pattern to talk about time.

Look at these examples:
A two-minute video.
This video lasts two minutes.

A four hour flight.
The flight took four hours.

A three day course.
The course is three days long.

Note that we often use a hypen (-) with the adjective-like phrase (without the -s):

a seventy-pound jacket
a three-day course

Home Forums Expressions with time and money: should you add an “s” or not?

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