Let's suppose you have lost a specific amount of money in a deal and your partner is going to find out how much it had been. What shall he ask you?

Once, I had a close American friend who had finished his higher education in business management. I remember that he used lots of finance and business terms in his everyday speech. He taught me two terms that can be used in this sense:

  • How much are you in the green?
  • How much are you in the black?

First of all, most of the major dictionaries do not contain these terms. Then, I'm not sure whether they can be understood by any English speaker or it is somehow a sort of financial jargon which can not be realized for a lot of people.

Please let me know about it and also tell me what would you say in everyday conversation in a clearcut manner?

2 Answers 2


"In the red" (meaning lose money) or "in the black" (meaning make money), are common idioms. Being "in the red" indicates that you have a debt, but you expect, or hope, to make a profit later. It is normal for businesses to borrow money from the bank, with the intention of making a profit later.

The company went into the red during the second quarter, but a restructuring resulted in us being back in the black by November, and good Christmas sales will mean a healthy profit by the end of the year.

If a person has lost money on an investment the idiom is simply:

How much money did you lose?

Alternatively, if you are asking about profit:

How much money did you make?

You could drop the word "Money" from those questions, if the context is clear.

I've never heard the expression "be in the green". Some investigation suggests it is an American slang, meaning "Have lots of cash", not directly related to making or losing money in an investment.

  • Thank you James K, but how about "to be in the green"?
    – A-friend
    May 21, 2019 at 7:34
  • Meanwhile, if I'm not mistaken, you mean that "to be in the red" and "to be in the black" mean the same thing and they imply that "you are in the debt" or "you have some debt" or "you have lost some money". Do you confirm my interpretation @James K?
    – A-friend
    May 21, 2019 at 7:37
  • 1
    You are mistaken. "in the red" and "in the black" mean the exact opposite . "Red" mean you lose money. "Black" means you make money.
    – James K
    May 21, 2019 at 7:39
  • What about: "how much did you profit?" @James K? Can I use it instead of "how much did you make"?
    – A-friend
    May 21, 2019 at 7:41
  • 1
    "How much did you profit" is possible, but "What was the profit" would be better.
    – James K
    May 21, 2019 at 7:44

"How much are you in the red?"

This is because losses are traditionally written with red ink on balance sheets, while "in the black" refers to making profits because positive amounts were written by black ink.

"In the green" refers to possessing currency, rather than making profits or losses, as it refers to the color of American money.

  • Thank you @nick012000, so you mean that "in the green" refers to the "profit" and in contrary, "in the red" refers to the "loss"? Meanwhile, are they understandable for not well-educated people?
    – A-friend
    May 21, 2019 at 7:04
  • Also, please tell me what normally people ask in this case aside from these specific terms? Maybe, "how much is your loss" or "how much did you lose" can work. But I'm not confident!
    – A-friend
    May 21, 2019 at 7:07
  • 2
    Note that "in the green" would not be understood in the UK, or outside the USA, as money here is not green.
    – James K
    May 21, 2019 at 7:11
  • 1
    @A-friend "In the black" and "in the red" are accounting phrases that refer to profit and loss. "In the green" is a colloquial phrase that refers to having a lot of money, rather than referring to profit or loss, since American money is green.
    – nick012000
    May 21, 2019 at 10:03

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