I wrote two phrase below. Are the meanings of these same or different because of “a”.

He made a ten dollars short payment.

He made ten dollars short payment.

  • Not sure about making any change...but it may make it ungrammatical. – Maulik V Apr 19 at 9:15
  • 1
    Count nouns like "payment" generally require a determiner like "a", so only the first one is possible. I would treat "ten-dollars-short" as a compound adjective, hyphenated as shown. – BillJ Apr 19 at 9:24
  • @BillJ what confuse me is that is total payment $10 or the payment $10 short? – language learner Apr 19 at 9:36
  • I interpret it as meaning that the payment was short by $10. – BillJ Apr 19 at 9:41

It's an awkward way to phrase the sentence. I'd be inclined to say something more like:

His payment was ten dollars short.

However, if you really wanted to preserve your original wording for some reason, then keep the indefinite article, and use hyphens to make a compound adjective:

He made a ten-dollars-short payment.

As mentioned on one grammar website:

Hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea. This is called a compound adjective.

an off-campus apartment
state-of-the-art design


Neither version sounds correct at the moment. I would write/say it as:

He made a payment that was ten dollars short.

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