In another question regarding a difference between short on and short of, the answer says the following:

... But this is not always the case. A person can be short on/of money, but lacking a specific amount, someone can only be €10 short or short €10. This construction never uses a preposition.

but is that really true? I can see sentences like "I am short of 10 dollars" quite often.

  • 8
    Can you cite some specific examples of uses like "I am short of 10 dollars"? It sounds really wrong to my ear. (But "I am [some amount] short of 10 dollars" and "I am 10 dollars short of [the amount I need]" and also "I am short by 10 dollars" are OK, so exact context would help.)
    – 1006a
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:00
  • @1006a So basically the answer there is incorrect? I am confused, so many posters there confirmed it is correct :( ell.stackexchange.com/questions/170246/…
    – John V
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 19:10
  • 'shorty by' instead of 'short on' sounds more natural and likely to be used.
    – esoterik
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 21:46

2 Answers 2


When the meaning is "to have an amount that is less, by some amount, than a required amount" it is idiomatic not to use of but to say

I'm short ten dollars. I need to visit the ATM.

short + shortage-amount

You need ten dollars more in order to reach the amount needed.

When the meaning is "not reaching a number, less than" then you find of:

The population of the district is short of 10,000.

The tallest building in that city was short of 100 storeys.

The population might be 9,873 and the building could be, say, 97 storeys high. The implication is that the number is approaching the specified number.

  • 13
    I am short of ten dollars would mean "I have somewhat less than ten dollars". I am short ten dollars would mean "I need ten dollars more".
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:47
  • 2
    Are you sure? ell.stackexchange.com/questions/170246/…
    – John V
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:48
  • 2
    To my ear We are short of a few players (where short of means "missing" or "lacking") is non-standard, but I do concede that I've heard the phrase used. The problem is that in any language there will always be a fraction of the population that uses words, phrases, tenses, etc in a way that differs to some degree from the way the rest of the speaking population use them.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:58
  • 6
    I would regard I am short of $2 as non-standard when the meaning is "I need $2 more". And by "non-standard" all I mean is that a relatively small fraction of the population would say it that way.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:02
  • 4
    @user970696 That sounds fine, because you've omitted the "of", which is the crux of the issue ("short of X" has a different meaning than "short X").
    – 1006a
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:54

One very often sees and hears expressions like I am short of [a sum of money], meaning I lack that sum which I have an immediate need for, or I need that sum to reach some needed total amount, e.g. a bill. To say "This construction never uses a preposition" is sweeping and misleading.

There is a specific usage, common in British English, that may or may not be widespread, I don't know. It is this: we can use 'short' or 'short by' to discuss a shortfall discovered when checking accounts. For example, a manager might check a shop worker's till and say "your till is short [by] six pounds", meaning the sum found in the till is £6 less than it should be.

  • It is common in American English as well. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 21:37

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