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Monnaie: coins, change and changing money in French

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Money and the French word monnaie are false friends, meaning that they look so much alike that you’ll instantly want to substitute one for the other.

Not so fast, though: while monnaie also refers to money, it specifically means change or coins. There’s a bunch of similar word pairs (or “false friends”) that tend to trick English speakers who’re learning French, so I suggest you consult our reasonably awesome list of the most important ones. It’s useful but also fun!

Now that we have that out of the way: knowing how to say money-related stuff in French is essential. If you travel to a French-speaking country, it’s safe to say that you’ll make a purchase within 24 hours of being there – and then interacting with the cashier will involve knowing your pièces and billets.

la piècecoin
le billetbill, banknote

Change, making change, and breaking a bill in French

avoir de la monnaie = to have change

Est-ce que tu as de la monnaie ? = Do you have any change?

Puis-je avoir de la monnaie pour le bus ? = Can I have some change for the bus fare?

Excusez-moi, je pense que vous vous êtes trompée en me rendant la monnaie. = Excuse me, I think you gave me the wrong change.

Je dois avoir de la monnaie dans ma poche. = I must have some change in my pocket.

faire de la monnaie à qn = to make change = to change bank notes to smaller denominations (smaller banknotes and/or coins; e.g., you give them a €10 bill and get a €5 bill and 5 euros in coins in exchange)

faire de la monnaie sur…= make change for…

Peux-tu me faire de la monnaie sur un billet de 20 € ? = Can you make change for a €20 bill?

Est-ce que vous pouvez me faire de la monnaie sur 50 €, s’il vous plaît? = Can you make change for €50, please?

Note: in French, the euro/dollar/pound etc. sign comes after the number, with a space in between.

avoir de la monnaie sur = to have change for

Vous avez de la monnaie sur 100 € ? = Do you have change for a €100 note?/ Can you break a hundred?

avoir la monnaie de 5/ 10/ 50 euros = to have change for 5/ 10/ 50 euros

Est-ce que vous avez la monnaie de 50 euros ? = Do you have change for 50 euros?

avoir la monnaie (exacte) = to have the exact amount in notes and/or coins

avoir 10 € en monnaie = to have 10 euros in coins

casser un billet = to break a note

Pouvez-vous casser mon billet de 100 euros ? = Can you break my €100 bill?

Vous pouvez casser un billet de 50 ? = Can you break a fifty?

Fun to know: Bonus French expressions about money

tirelire (f) = piggy bank, money box

Je n’avais jamais vu casser une tirelire. = I’ve never seen (someone) break a piggy bank.

Note: You might be wondering where this French word comes from (I certainly have been).

The answer is we don’t know its etymology for sure, but according to the most likely theory, it’s an onomatopoeia – or a word that imitates the sound it describes. In this interpretation, tirelire suggests the sound of coins landing in the piggy bank.

l‘argent (m) de poche = pocket money, child’s allowance

Mon chéri, tu as déjà eu ton argent de poche. = Honey, you have already gotten your pocket money. (Note: said to a son – if it was a daughter, you’d go with ma chérie.)

économiser son argent de poche = save pocket money

J’ai économisé sur mon argent de poche pour acheter un poney. = I’ve saved up my pocket money to buy a pony. (Note: the verb is in the passé composé here, which does not require an extra e after j’ai even if the speaker is a girl/woman.)

la fausse monnaie = counterfeit/fake money

la prime de risque = danger money

l’argent (m) facile = easy money

Allonge la monnaie. = Pony up the cash.

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