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The phrase "If money were not an option" is often used to mean "Don't worry about how much it would cost". However, I just noticed that the last word, option, makes it sound like saying "If spending money was not one of your options".

Should I keep using this phrase? Or is it a mutation of the phrase "If money were not an object" ? Going by exact quote searches with Google, they're about the same: "if money were not an object" (32,400 results) and "If money were not an option" (27,500 results). Or would I be far better off using neither of these and just saying "If money were not an issue" ?

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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I always say "money is no object" (well, I would if it weren't—sigh), and I never say "money is not an option". I suspect that "option" is a newer variant, based on a mishearing of "object", since it doesn't make much sense when you think about it. "Object" and "issue" are established idioms; I have my doubts about "option".

In books, "money is no object" is certainly the commonest form, as you can see in this Ngram:

alt text

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I’d never seen ‘option’ before, and agree it makes absolutely no sense, but it seems to be remarkably widespread — even if the google hit numbers are unreliable, it’s clear from the results that this version at least gets pretty widely used. Since it’s widespread but neither of us has met it before, I wonder if it’s more common in some speech communities than others? I’m not sure how one could easily investigate that… –  PLL Jan 17 '11 at 3:13
Reading a few of the google results, the usage was pretty evenly split between what I would consider misuse ("not an option" == "no object") and good use ("not an option"=="not available"), so the raw hit rate isn't necessarily an indicator of "option" overtaking "object" as an idiom.... –  Hellion Jan 17 '11 at 3:29
@PLL: 1. Google's Ngram Viewer gives no results for "money is not an option" before 1994, so it must be a recent expression in books. 2. Neither American nor British English give any results at all—could it be Australian, Canadian, or from India? I doubt it; the Ngram Viewer probably isn't meant for such research. 3. Googling for "money is not an option" -object usa v. uk didn't turn up anything useful. –  Cerberus Jan 17 '11 at 4:36
@Hellion: Ah, that is good to know. So this newish expression might be a combination of mishearing and contamination: I am afraid that your Ladyship shall have to find accommodation elsewhere: the Grand Suites are all booked. — That is not an option. Money is no object. –  Cerberus Jan 17 '11 at 4:52
@Cerberus It's not 'stralian! –  d'alar'cop Feb 14 at 13:50
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I read

If money were not an option

as meaning

We have 3 options, A, B and Money. Let's suppose we only consider A and B.

Perhaps a little old-fashioned, but i prefer

Were money not an object

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I'd say that this is subjective: a matter of personal preference.
I prefer using "if money were/is/(was) not an issue...": I find it less ambiguous.

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Thanks for pointing out was versus were in there as well. –  Joey Adams Jan 17 '11 at 2:37
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The most common phrasing, it seems (and the one I would think of as most correct) is

If money is no object…

which gets 2,090,000 hits! In general, whatever tense/mood of verb is used, the …no object form seems commonest.

The general form seems to be: If money (is|was|were) (no|not an) (object|issue|option). Some ghits for each, though as Cerberus points out in comments, these numbers should be taken with an extremely large pinch of salt:

                      is         was        were

no object      2,090,000   1,670,000   1,200,000
not an object    102,000      44,400      32,400

no option         94,400      84,500      44,700
not an option    163,000      51,000      27,500

no issue         115,000      68,700      51,200
not an issue     826,000     281,000     130,000
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Sadly, Google has perverted its search system to please bad spellers such that corpus frequency research is very unreliable and erratic, to the point of possibly being useful only when researching rare words. You can see it by doing this search: +"money is no object" -option -issue and comparing its results with +"money is no object" -"money is not an option" -"money is no an issue". You should get many more hits with the longer search, since it excludes only very specific phrases, as opposed to words; but behold the flouting opposite. –  Cerberus Jan 17 '11 at 2:49
@Cerberus: interesting! I knew it was strange, but not that strange. Indeed, +"money is no object" -option turns up over 5M hits, whereas +"money is no object" alone (which again should surely have more hits since nothing’s excluded) turns up just 700k. –  PLL Jan 17 '11 at 2:56
Nonetheless, assuming the general trend of these numbers is at all meaningful, the prevalence in every case of ‘was’ over ‘were’ makes me sad! :-( –  PLL Jan 17 '11 at 3:10
@PLL: I am with you, buddy! Recently, I discussed if he were v. if he was with a teacher of English at an internet forum, and he called were "dead and buried", if I remember correctly. When I tried to explain the meaningful difference, he failed to understand. // Your search example with only -option added or left out is a great example for its clear simplicity; I am going to use that in the future (with your permission). –  Cerberus Jan 17 '11 at 4:12
@Cerberus: from what we read on the interwebs, I’d say “dead and buried” is quite an overstatement from you English teacher disputant — ‘if she were’ is still in pretty rude health, it just no longer holds the monopoly. But yes — while I can no longer, in my principled descriptivist heart, find cause to call ‘if she was’ incorrect, I still can and will state my opinion that ‘if she were’ is better — aesthetically, pragmatically, and for the long-term health and expressivity of the language :-) (And of course, feel free to re-use that google example!) –  PLL Jan 17 '11 at 4:53
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