If I found two $5 bills on the ground, would it be acceptable to say "$10 are on the ground"?
Is "Two $5 bills are on the ground" the ONLY acceptable sentence?
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No, most people would consider it incorrect to say "$10 are on the ground".
Sums of money are singular. We would say "$10 is on the ground".
If the dollars took the form of ten individual coins or ten one-dollar bills, it might be considered correct to say "are", but when you're referring to a sum of money, it's "is".
It's similar with weights and distances. We say "five hundred miles is a long way to travel". We don't say "are".
'3 minutes is perfect for tea.' '£100 is a fortune!' '24 hours is all I need' '26 miles isn't so far!'
Despite the fact that 3 is a plural number and minutes is a plural noun, the sentence uses a singular verb. This is because, within the context, three minutes is considered to be one unit of time (3 minutes together is enough time to make one cup of tea). This is true for amounts, distances, periods of time, quantities, weights sums of money, etc. ( BBC Learning English )
I thought it important to address the question about "is" versus "are". However, please note that "There's 10 dollars on the ground" would be more idiomatic.
It would be perfectly valid to say, "I found $10 lying on the ground." Imagine a more extreme case. Suppose you found a whole pile of cash. No one would insist that you say, "I found 17 twenty dollar bills, 12 ten dollar bills, 4 five dollar bills, 24 one dollar bills, 82 quarters, 16 dimes, 10 nickels and 20 pennies lying on the ground." You'd just give the total, whatever that comes to in this case. (Sadly, how to express the idea that I have found large amounts of money lying in the ground is not a problem that I struggle with often in real life.)
You might, of course, be more specific and say, "I found 2 five dollar bills."
In general, how specific or how "summarized" you are depends on how much information is relevant or interesting. There are times when a brief statement like "I was out with some friends last night" is more information then the other person is interested in hearing. Other times you might want to name these friends and say exactly where you went and what you did.
You are talking about 2 different things.
In the sentence:
Two $5 bills are on the ground
You are referring to the bills that are on the ground. We use are because bills are countable.
In the sentence:
There is 10 dollar laying on the ground
You are referring to dollar which is not physically countable. 10 dollar can take lots of shapes: two five dollar bills, ten one dollar bills, or I can have 10 dollars on my bank account.
When things are not countable such as water, we use the singular version.
There is water on the ground
Bottles are countable so:
Two bottles of water are on the ground
What is acceptable to say depends on what meaning you want to convey. If what you want to convey is monetary value, then
Two five-dollar bills
are equally acceptable.
If what you want to convey is the number of items of legal tender, then only
Two five-dollar bills
is acceptable because
might mean anything from a thousand pennies to a single ten-dollar bill.
What you intend to convey determines whether two grammatical sentences are equivalent. Meaning comes first.
I would absolutely accept "Ten dollars are on the ground." I don't know if I'm in the majority or minority. "Ten dollars is on the ground" sounds a bit odd, but I might not notice if I'm not thinking about it.
I would be happy with any of these constructions:
"$10 are on the ground"
You are really referring to a singular thing, an amount of money on the ground, the measurement of an uncountable amount. If you were talking about individual dollar bills that would be acceptable, but should be written as 'Ten dollars are on the ground'. You are really omitting the item you are indicating, money, as a shorthand and specifying the amount. The statement could be 'There is $10 in money on the ground.' In this instance, dollars is the unit of measurement for the money that is on the ground, no an individual countable item in itself.
Think about other statements involving measurements:
When talking about multiple individual items, 'are' would be used. The 'is' is a short-hand for letting you know you are talking about the amount of money and not individual items. If you did say "There are ten dollars on the ground", I would immediately think there are ten countable things, individual dollars or dollar bills, on the ground. If you wanted to describe the amount and the individual makeup you may say "There is ten dollars in the form of two five-dollar bills on the ground."
In part, it depends on what you're talking about.
If you are talking about the sum, then:
If you are talking about the individual pieces of paper or coins, then:
It is common to hear the use of 'are', without also referencing 'coins' or 'bills' in the same sentence, from inexperienced speakers. Technically, I think it is correct, but colloquially, it identifies the speaker as someone who is still learning.
In my context / colloquially -- U.S. English, Pacific Northwest region -- it is also possible to say: