Funnily enough, the way how to say money in French is "argent". It literally means "silver", trace of an old age where precious metals were the currency of the day. The French word "monnaie" means "coin", "currency" or "change". So beware: "money" and "monnaie" are false friends, even though they are related.

There are many slang words for cash: "de l'oseille", "du fric", "du pognon", etc. The English word "cash" has also slipped into the French dictionary!


A bit of pronunciation

In North America, they use dollars and cents. These are also called "dollar" and "cent" in French, but are pronounced in French like this:
            • Dollar: [do-lar] with a contracted O followed by an open A, so basically the opposite of the English way. If it sounds like [dah-lur], you are doing it wrong.
            • Cent:[senn] with no T and a long N for good measure. This is particularly true in Québec. Cents can be called "sous" [soo] as well.
Canadian dollars and American dollars may share the same names, but they are different. American dollars are a dull grey green, whereas Canadian ones come in different shades: blue for fivers, purple for $10, green for $20, red for $50 and brown for $100. By the way, in French, we put the dollar sign at the end like this "100$", which is the right order if you think about it when you read!

If dollars can be called "bucks" in English, they can be called "piastres" in Québec. Pronounce it [pee-ass]. Sorry if it sounds rude; "piastre" is a very old word and it got a bit mangled over time.

In Europe, they have euros and cents, which are called "euro" and "centimes" in French. Make sure you pronounce them right:
         • Euro: [euh-ro] not [yu-ro]. Make sure you bridge it with the word before if the latter finished with a consonant. For example: "un euro" is [un Neuh-ro], "deux euros" is [deuh Zeuh-ro], etc.
         • Centimes: [sen-teem]
Euros come in several shades and various sizes. In Great-Britain, they still have the British pound, which is called "la livre sterling" (usually shortened to, simply, "livre"). It's funny because in French, "livre" means either “book” (if it’s masculine) or the units of weight and currency (if it’s feminine).



Now, let's put those differences aside and talk about the word "argent" and how to it use properly. I'm afraid it's trickier than it may appear. I’ve noticed that most people don't even know it should be used--it can be used with three different articles, depending on the context!

Let's proceed by elimination. Of all the available articles (un, une, des, le, la, les, l', du, de la, d'), we won't use "la", "une" or "de la" with "argent" because "argent" is masculine. We can't use "le" either because "argent" starts with a vowel, and when speaking French, putting two vowels in a row (one at the end of a word followed by one at the beginning of the next word) is not tidy. Also, "argent" should normally be singular as it's impossible to count it--you can count "notes", but not "money" itself. Therefore "un argent" and "des argents" are to be avoided. That leaves us with three usable articles: l', de l', and d'.

      • "L'argent" means "all the money", as in "all the money available" or "all the money needed" or "all the money discussed".
      • "De l'argent" means "some money". This is probably the most widely used combination. So if you can't remember all the rules in this article, try to remember this form "de l'argent" and it should be right more often than not.
      • "D'argent" is used in negative sentences (for example, "pas d'argent", which means “no money”) or when the word is quantified with an adverb such as "peu", "assez", "beaucoup", "trop"or"plus" (which mean, in order, "a little", "enough", "a lot", "too much" or "more"). It's logical if you think about it, because those adverbs are always followed by the word "de", like how in English you say “a lot of money,” not “a lot money”. Because "argent" starts with a vowel, however we clip the E, and "de" becomes d'.


un peu d'argent
beaucoup d'argent
assez d'argent
trop d'argent
plus d'argent
pas d'argent

• "Argent" can be used without any article if you use the word "sans" (without).

Let's analyse these rules. If, for example, you say "As-tu apporté… argent?" (Did you bring…money?) using the "wrong" article, it will change the meaning of your sentence like this:

money in French

(Personal Image)

As-tu apporté l'argent? (Did you bring all the money?) – This is correct, but if you meant to ask, "Did you bring some money?", by saying "l'argent" (meaning "the money needed/discussed/available"), the person you are talking to is likely to think, "Yikes! Which money was I supposed to bring? I only have few notes in my pockets!"
As-tu apporté de l'argent? (Did you bring some money?) - This is also correct. However, if you meant to say, "Did you bring the money we need?", by saying "de l'argent" it will sound as though you know deep down that the person you’re talking to failed to bring the entire sum of money. Asking this way could imply that you are ready to accept less than what you asked for.
As-tu apporté assez d'argent ? (Did you bring enough money?) is correct. But be careful not to instead say "assez de l'argent", "assez des argents" or "assez l'argent", because those are rookie mistakes that will ruin your Godfather impersonation! Sorry!

Some words related to money in French

Here are some useful words related to money in French and English:

English                                         French

a bank une banque
a loan un prêt
a mortgage une hypothèque
an interest rate  un taux d'intérêts
to pay cash payer:
comptant / en espèce / en liquide / cash
an account un compte bancaire
a withdrawal un retrait
a deposit  un dépôt
a cash machine / a cash point un distributeur de billets (France) / un guichet automatique (Québec)
a checkbook / a chequebook un carnet de chèques / un chéquier


Common expressions and sayings
Here are some French sayings about money, with their English counterparts.

• Argent de poche: pocket money
• Le temps c'est de l'argent:Time is money.
• L’argent ne pousse pas dans les arbres!: Money doesn't grown on trees!
• L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur: Money can't buy you happiness.
• L'argent attire l'argent:Money breeds money.
• L'argent n'a pas d'odeur: Money has no smell – its origin is not important.


A bit of culture

If you are interested by the culture from Québec, I suggest you watch a film called "Séraphin; un homme et son péché". It's a terribly sad tale about a miser called Séraphin. His story started as a novel by Claude-Henri Grignon in 1933 and was adapted for a radio dramatization that ran from 1939 to 1962, then made into a TV series called "Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut" that ran from 1956 to 1970. I remember watching reruns in the 80’s and trust me, those stories are not "belles"; in fact, quite the opposite! Finally, it was turned into a major motion picture in 2002. It's therefore fair to say that everyone in Québec knows about Séraphin. The main character's name is used as an adjective in my country: "être séraphin" is to be stingy and mean.

One last suggestion for today. Even though we say "L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur", a band called Les Respectables wrote a cheeky "L'argent fait le bonheur". You can hear it here, but please note that Québécois don't really speak like that! The accent the singer adopts is just to bring a light hearted and Reggae style to the song. If you’re curious about the lyrics, you can find them on my blog.

That's it for me for today! Don't forget to hit the "like" button if you enjoyed it. Bye for now!