Below is a conversation between a mother and her son-

Mom: look, this is my bankbook.
Boy: Uh, do you count up your money in this list?
Mom: In a way yes. You count your money, or you account for it. That's why it's called a bank account.

What does "you account for it" mean?

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    What did you find in the dictionary? Note that if Mum is trying to teach her boy English, it's a bad example to use. Despite the superficial similarity, etymologically and semantically, count and account are relatively distant cousins, so all she's really likely to achieve is to confuse the poor lad! Dec 29, 2020 at 17:55
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    I have an Stack Exchange ELL account but there is no money involved. Dec 29, 2020 at 18:50
  • thefreedictionary.com/ACCOUNT+FOR-account for: 1- to give a reason for; to explain. 2- To keep a record of how money has been spent. 3- to make or provide a reckoning of (expenditure, payments, etc). Which one is correct? Dec 29, 2020 at 19:31
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    @rezaellstack dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/… it's a phrasal verb Dec 29, 2020 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


You really have got yourself mixed up. I suggest we use a better dictionary.

Merriam Webster gives four relevant definitions of "account" as a NOUN.

(1) a reckoning, a computation.

This definition is, as the dictionary says, archaic, but it explains the derivation of the next definition, namely

(2) a record of [bookkeeping entries] to cover transactions involving a particular ... person.

This record is the result of computations. It is also called an "accounting." Moreover, it arises in the context of the next definition:

(3) a formal business arrangement providing for regular dealings or services (such as banking ...

Consequently, in the context of banking, an account has come to mean

(4) money deposited in an account at a bank and subject to withdrawal.

So a bankbook is a record of transactions involving Mum's money deposited with the bank. It is an accounting OF the money owed her by the bank. At least in U.S. parlance, "accounting of" is more idiomatic than "account of."

There is a phrase "accountable for," which means to be responsible, legally or morally, for doing something The bank is accountable for the money Mum has deposited with the bank. In other words, the bank has to be be able and willing to give Mum back the money on deposit according to her agreement with the bank. Now clearly a bankbook cannot be responsible for doing anything because it is an inanimate object. The bankbook is an accounting of the money for which the bank is accountable. Mum has mixed up the evidence of the bank's responsibility (the physical bankbook), the computation of the money owed her (the meaning of the words and numbers printed in the bankbook), and the concern actually responsible for safeguarding and eventually returning her money (the bank). She clearly is neither a banker nor a student of the English language.

  • Honestly I assumed the example was a bit of wordplay, Mom having herself a mom joke. Which doesn't exactly make it easy for learners to understand! Jan 1, 2021 at 19:33
  • @cactustictacs That is quite possible. There is no citation or link. I overlooked that extra complexity. Jan 1, 2021 at 21:37

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