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Imagine you're in a bar and order a pint of beer, which is £3.20. You only have a £10 note but want to tip the barkeeper. As you can't use 'keep the change' for obvious reasons, what do you say to tip the barkeeper 80 pence, making the total price £4?

closed as primarily opinion-based by tchrist, FumbleFingers, phenry, Matt Gutting, Chenmunka Dec 4 '14 at 18:45

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  • 7
    In the U.S. we'd just say "give me change for [amount]"—in your case it would be "Give me change for 4£." They'll understand. – Robusto Dec 2 '14 at 13:21
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    Btw, it's always "£3.20", "£4". If you want to report speech in the order actually spoken, you have to write "three pounds twenty", "four pounds", never "3.20£", "3£20", or "4£". Also, a "£10 bill" in British English means you owe someone (are being billed) for £10. The piece of paper with the Queen's face on the front is called a "£10 note" (pronounced "ten pound note" or "tenner") :-) – Steve Jessop Dec 2 '14 at 14:59
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    Take the change, then give them the tip back. Tills often purposefully won't let people round the price off. Adjusting change with the till open raises red flags with employers looking for dishonesty. – JamesRyan Dec 2 '14 at 15:03
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    @HotLicks Just for note, to some the practice of bringing back (for instance) five $1 bills instead of one $5 note would be considered rude, as though a kind of panhandling - they'd just as well say "please give me a few of these". Depending on the local culture, many customers expect change with the fewest bills possible and anything else is rude without asking "are $1s ok?" Indeed, it also suggests "I think that you're the type that would stiff me if you could muster any excuse, so I'm going to take away a flimsy excuse." A customer is often expected to ask if they want smaller bills. – BrianH Dec 3 '14 at 4:35
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    On a Pub Usage, rather than English Usage, note: don't tip like this in UK pubs, it's weird and will mark you out, in a negative way. If you need a scholarly source: Passport to the Pub, Rule number six (on page 9). – AakashM Dec 3 '14 at 14:50
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I am occasionally in the same situation when I want to tip a taxi driver.

Converting to your problem, I would say:

Make it 4 pounds.

or if that is not clear:

Make it 4 pounds and keep the difference.

This is in my country (Australia) where tipping is uncommon, however.

Edit:

Thinking about it even more, sometimes I add the word "Just" to the front of the sentence. Not sure why.

  • I tried using 'Make it...' in a bar once but got back the original difference which made me think the sentence was wrong. Thanks for making it clear that tipping is uncommon in the UK. – JonaSc Dec 2 '14 at 13:45
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    If you want to tip bar staff in the UK, just say "Have one yourself" when completing your order- They will either have a drink, or in places where they are not allowed to do this, will keep some of the change back to the approximate value of a drink and either pocket it or add it to the generic tips pot. – Marv Mills Dec 2 '14 at 14:04
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    That's the exact translation to what is commonly said in Germany. – atamanroman Dec 2 '14 at 14:53
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    @JonaSc: depends what for. Tipping bar staff is uncommon (not unheard of, just not expected in most places). Tipping in restaurants is routine. But I digress, the details belong on travel rather than English language. My point is just that you shouldn't go away thinking that tipping is always unusual. – Steve Jessop Dec 2 '14 at 15:11
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    Adding the word 'just'(also Australian) is actually a way of diffusing your own slight anxiety. Not saying it will actually make you more anxious, try it. "Make if 4 pounds" sounds more like an order subconsciously, you are telling them to do something(rather than "Just make it 4 pounds") – user95858 Dec 3 '14 at 12:06
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An equivalent would be: "Just 6£ back is fine."

Sometimes it takes the driver/bartender a moment to realize what you're saying and that you're not trying to cheat them, though.

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    This approach works especially well if you're willing to tip a little extra. For example, if the amount is 3.20, and I'm willing to tip 1.80, I might say, "Just a five back is fine." (Because a five can be paid back with a single bill, it seems to eliminate some of the confusion you mention.) – J.R. Dec 3 '14 at 17:23
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I agree with the given answers, but for completeness I'd like to add the obvious option which avoids the possible awkwardness, risk of miscommunication, and (admittedly slight) inconvenience to your server all caused by telling them to do the math for their tip themselves: don't.

Pay your bill, get all of your change back, then give them their tip. If you're expecting a large amount for change, make sure to ask for it to be broken up into small enough denominations to pay the tip for.

I just noticed JamesRyan's comment, which seems to share this sentiment. He also adds that some tills don't allow employees to "round the price off", so telling a server who uses such a till to get their own tip would certainly be inconvenient (perhaps even dangerous) for them, or else awkward when they tell you they can't.

  • This is my preference because it gives me time to decide on an amount while the barkeeper attends to others (from an American perspective). – Mr. Buster Dec 3 '14 at 17:52
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Just call it four

To complement geometrikal's answer, I use this. It is a very relaxed and informal way to say 'keep the change' without having to explicitly explain the amount you wish to tip, but still conveying the exact amount.

There is little confusion if you pass over the money as you say it and it sounds much less awkward than trying to explain the amount you wish to tip or the amount you wish in return.

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    This is the approach I use (I'm from / live in the UK) for tipping taxi drivers or my barber etc. For example, if a taxi fare is £3.70, I might say "Just call it a fiver." - though the usage isn't always for tipping - often it's just to get convenient change instead of receiving several low value coins back. – Michael Dec 3 '14 at 12:42
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Whenever I'm in the bar and order a drink which I pay for one drink at a time with cash I (and lots of others that I see) leave the change on the bar while I drink. In the event that I have a second drink I will take the price out of what's sitting on the bar. When I'm ready to leave I take what I want and leave the rest. Also, push the money forward when you leave.

Of course this might not be a good solution for crowded bars where your money might get stolen. You can still just take the change you want and leave the rest on the bar.

4

If the bill is 3.20 (doesn't matter pounds, usd, cnd), I'll just say "take 4". This is for a bartender, cabbie, delivery driver, whatever. It's succinct and they get it.

If the bill is 16.50 and I say take 18, he knows the over is his and since I told him to take 18 and 18 > 16.50 he knows exactly where he stands. Even if he sucks at math (common problem with delivery drivers around me.) Saying something like 'gimme 2 back' always makes them stop and think ime and if it's not the most straightforward addition/subtraction I see the gears turning and it takes longer to get my change.

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    That particular formulation works even better if it's 5 bucks, and your cabbie is a jazz fan. (Thanks a lot for getting that song stuck in my head...) – neminem Dec 3 '14 at 17:05
  • @neminem I love that song!!! :D [ now stuck in my head also :P ] – Shokhet Dec 3 '14 at 17:13
  • I'd love to take credit for sticking music in your head but not a jazz fan, sry. The reference whooshes right over my head... – JoelAZ Dec 3 '14 at 19:55
  • @JoelAZ youtube.com/watch?v=vmDDOFXSgAs – kinokijuf Dec 3 '14 at 20:10
  • Thanks. I've heard that song, never new what it was called. Is that the jazz version of a Rick Roll? lol... – JoelAZ Dec 3 '14 at 21:36
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Please don't!

In those sensible countries whose worker economy does not rely predominantly upon the random generosity of strangers (which never made any sense to me at all, but there we go), the cost of item X is C(X) and C(X) is what the till comes up with when you hit the button for X. It's insanely awkward to be given D but instructed to charge E, then to try to get the till to accept E as payment for X instead of C(X) whilst rendering D-E in change. And then all you're going to do is put D-C(X) in a little jar anyway.

At best it takes a moment to figure out; at worst it ruins the end-of-day take calculations when a take of T is no longer equal to C(X)*N(X) across all items X. It could even throw off a stock check if executed sufficiently poorly by front-line staff. Even worse, bosses could start to suspect misconduct from staff fiddling the money they've been given by customers, and it would be difficult to prove your innocence from video-only surveillance.

Just make your transaction like a normal person, paying D for X and getting D-C(X) as change in return … then say "here, keep this; I have enough shrapnel as it is!", make an audible awkward chuckle, smile, and walk away.

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