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When using an abbreviation for a coin such as the english 50 pence piece it is 50 p. But how do we make this a plural? 50ps or 50p's? In the following context: I have nine 50 pence peices.

In speech this would often be said as "I have nine 50p's" Indicating that I have nine 50 pence coins.

Should this be written with or without the appostrophe? "I have nine 50ps" or "I have nine 50p's"

  • Thank you for this. To give some context see this in the Mail on-line: New 50 pence pieces designed by the public to mark the London 2012 Olympics go into circulation. London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said: 'The 50p's will be part of a long-lasting, wide-reaching cultural legacy that will benefit the entire nation and I'm looking forward .......' Read more: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1320135 – John Handley Aug 7 '15 at 14:15
  • People of my generation call them "ten-bob bits". it is easier to produce a plural for that. – Chenmunka Aug 7 '15 at 14:36
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    Please don't use apostrophes to make things plural. – Catija Aug 7 '15 at 15:14
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    Thank you. The question really is that 50p is an object not an amount of money. So 50p could be made up of 50 pennies, but in this case it is the coin which is a '50 pence peice.' Often in speech "Nine 50 pence pieces" is often said as "Nine 50 pees" So it is a contraction of the word 'pieces.' In this case the 50p's refer to 50 pence pieces, not a plural of pence. Does this change the rule? – John Handley Aug 7 '15 at 15:38
  • The only time I can think of that the apostrophe would be appropriate is if you said "The image on the 50p's face looks like a guy sitting on a lion". – Catija Aug 7 '15 at 16:14
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Before 1971, the British pound was divided into 20 shillings, and a shilling was divided into 12 pence (the plural of pennies). "Shilling" was abbreviated "s" (for solidus, plural solidi, a Roman coin), and "pence" was abbreviated "d" (for denarius, plura denarii, another Roman coin). In 1971, Britain introduced decimalisation, dividing the pound into 100 pence, and the abbreviation for "pence" became "p". The abbreviations s/d/p always indicated an amount of money, whether 1d or 1p (one penny) or 50d or 50p (fifty pence), with the abbreviations serving for amounts of one unit or multiple.

There's no abbreviation for the individual coins. If you have nine coins worth 450p, you'll have to say "nine 50p coins" or "nine 50p pieces." In the same way, "50 qts" is an amount of liquid, but "50 qtss" isn't an abbreviation for fifty quart jars. The apostrophe is already taken for the possessive:

I bought 50p's worth of penny candy.

You can pronounce the the letter "p" or write out its sound to indicate the coin. In his book Man on the Run, Paul McCartney in the 1970s, author Tom Doyle describes one of the first concerts given by McCartney's band Wings. It was at a Nottingham university with an admission price of 50 pence. The band split up and pocketed the coins after the gig, weighing their pants down. McCartney noted:

We were like children. But it was all 50 pees. You walked out of the university and your trousers were tripping you.

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    No, I can say "I have nine fifty-pease" and mean nine 50p coins. The question is about how to write what I can say. – Andrew Leach Aug 7 '15 at 14:11
  • Thank you. Quite often in speech the shorter "I have nine fifty 'pees' in my pocket" is used. It may well seem pedantic or stiff to say "I have nine fifty pence pieces in my pocket" How do I indicate that the former has been said rather than reconstructing the sentence? – John Handley Aug 7 '15 at 14:22
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    @JohnHandley "Pees" is fine. See my edit. – deadrat Aug 7 '15 at 14:48
  • I'd hyphenate it: "I have nine fifty‐pees in my pocket", or perhaps "nine 50‐pees". If it's less about accurately transcribing speech and more about discussing all kinds of amounts of different coins, then "I had lots of 50p’s and a few 20p’s" should be fine. – hemflit Aug 7 '15 at 15:46
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    I'd certainly write I have ten pound coins and seven 50p's. I can easily find a style guide recommending the use of the apostrophe-s for the pure plural here (after a single letter), and seven 50ps and hyphenated forms look more outlandish (as do things like nine fifty‐pees). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 7 '15 at 16:34

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