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I encountered an article on Dictionary.com that says that pennies are not used to refer to a sum of money but rather the coins themselves. It went on to say that the term pence was used to refer to a sum of money. I was rather dubious about this statement, partially because I never heard anybody say pence in my stay in USA. Can anybody back up this fact? I tried to google this, and the only source of information I got (other then UK currencies) that supported this was Wikipedia.

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Which "we" are you referring to? AmE? –  KitFox Jan 5 '12 at 1:04
    
Do Americans even use penny/pennies/pence any more? –  FumbleFingers Jan 5 '12 at 1:07
    
@FumbleFingers--We use penny/pennies as our 1 cent coin(s) –  simchona Jan 5 '12 at 1:09
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-1, It appears that neither reference says that pennies is not used when referring to a sum of money; instead, both say that pence is, in some countries, used when referring to a sum of money. –  jwpat7 Jan 5 '12 at 1:09
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From that article: "noun British. a plural of penny; used in referring to a sum of money rather than to the coins themselves". –  RegDwigнt Jan 5 '12 at 1:14

3 Answers 3

I'm not aware that "pence" is used at all in the USA.

"Penny" is sometimes used to refer to a one cent coin.

In the United Kingdom, a penny is the official name of £0.01. "Pence" is used most of the time when referring to a a number of them, or something of that value.

a 50 pence piece

that chocolate bar costs 63 pence

"50 pennies" is likely to refer to 50 1p coins, whereas "50 pence" is more likely to refer to larger denominations coming to the same value.

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Absolutely. In the UK if you said to a shopkeeper "Can I have 50 pence in my change, please?", putting aside the fact that you'd normally say "a 50 pence", you'd expect to get at least one 50p coin. If you said "Can I have 50 pennies in my change?"* it wouldn't matter if you said "please" or not - you'd normally just get a hostile glare. I suppose if you were exceptionally charming, very occasionally the shopkeeper might count you out 50 x 1p coins. –  FumbleFingers Jan 5 '12 at 1:41
    
Well you'd normally say "Can I have a 50p piece in my change", with 50p voiced as "fifty pee" –  slim Jan 5 '12 at 11:41
    
Yes, doubtless on average we call it a fifty-pee piece much more often than a fifty pence. But I go through the Dartford tunnel quite often with passengers who have to rustle up change for me to chuck in the £1.50 toll booth coin counter. I'm sure it's by no means unknown for people there to say, for example, "I've got a fifty pence" - which we understand to mean a single coin, not some assortment of shrapnel adding up to that value. –  FumbleFingers Jan 5 '12 at 17:02
    
@FumbleFingers. The use of the word shrapnel to refer to small change is also interesting. I've heard it before, but not, I think, in Ireland. –  TRiG Oct 13 '12 at 0:44
    
@TRiG: I thought you Irish liked to play a little cards for money. What word do you use to distinguish coppers from "snow" (silver coinage, which is what you want to see on the table in a small-stakes gambling session). Actually, in both the previous context and this one, I think of "shrapnel" as "coppers", but in other contexts it can mean "any coins" (i.e. - not "real money" banknotes). –  FumbleFingers Oct 13 '12 at 2:19

In America, it is always two cents, not two pence. Only countries that have pounds use the word pence, as far as I know. And those that do use pennies when they are referring to a number of physical coins worth a penny each, but pence when referring to a sum of money irrespective of which coins it is represented in.

A box full of pennies fell on the ground.

Please give me all the pennies in your wallet.

This coin is worth five pence.

Please give me ten pence for this kiss.

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In USA, penny is used for the 1 cent coin ($0.01), and I have also heard pennies being used to mean "a small amount of money," such as in:

It is a miracle I can save few pennies every month.

As far as I recall, I have never heard pence being used as plural of penny, except maybe when referring to the British coins.

I have visited the East coast, from upper New York state to Washington D.C. I don't know if the usage of those words changes in other places.

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