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How I should read discount rates like the following:

a $3.50 discount

I'm not sure if I should say

"a three-fifty dollar discount,"

"a three dollar and fifty cent discount,"

or just "a three-fifty discount."

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There's some useful Markdown formatting you can use to indent quotes, format lists, etc. on SE. I'd check it out :] –  simchona Mar 14 '13 at 4:48
    
Thank you so much! This is really useful! :) –  Pato Mar 14 '13 at 5:01
    
Just don't go overboard--too much formatting makes things harder to read –  simchona Mar 14 '13 at 5:03
    
Also, I suspect you would benefit from joining the English Language Learners site. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 14 '13 at 5:14
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Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/107238/14666 –  Kris Mar 14 '13 at 5:30
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3 Answers

The first one would never be correct. The second one is correct. The third one is acceptable, but not the best way of saying it.

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The only correct reading in American English is "a three dollar and fifty cent discount." The "and...cent" is virtually never dropped when the number is used adjectivally, as it is here. (On the other hand, it is nearly always dropped when it is used as a noun: "How much do I owe you?" "Three fifty.") I believe I have heard the British say something like "a three pound fifty discount," (missing the "and...pence"), but I defer to a native speaker across the pond on that one.

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I think a three dollar fifty discount is the most common.

  • Dollar is singular because it is modifying a noun.

  • It's common to abbreviate and fifty cents to fifty after a dollar amount.

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I'm not sure I agree. Generally, the "three fifty" short form is use as an noun, not an adjective. "The cost is three fifty," but usually "the three dollar and fifty cent cup of coffee." –  jbeldock Mar 16 '13 at 0:45
    
I said three dollar fifty discount, not three fifty discount. –  Pitarou Mar 17 '13 at 8:10
    
Indeed, you did! :-) I find the form "three dollar fifty" even less common than "three fifty" or "three dollars and fifty cents." –  jbeldock Mar 17 '13 at 20:58
    
We must speak different dialects, then. –  Pitarou Mar 17 '13 at 23:22
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