When talking of American money, what does “pennies” mean?

Time ago, I was talking with an American friend of mine. She was checking how much money she had and said “[…] a dime and four pennies.”

Since 100 cents make a dollar, why did she say pennies?
Is there any difference between using cents and pennies in that sentence?
Does a dime and five cents have a different meaning?


The penny is the coin, and cent refers to how much the penny is worth.

If I told you I had 15 cents, that could be three nickels, or a dime and five pennies, or two nickels and five pennies (there are other possible combinations as well).

Since she already mentioned the dime, it makes sense that she also said “pennies” instead of “cents.” I suppose she might have said:

I have a dime plus four more cents

That would be grammatical, but usually we speak of coins with coins and cents with cents.

Had you asked me the same question, and I had the same amount of money, I’d probably say either of these:

I have a dime and four pennies.


I only have fourteen cents.

I might lean toward the first wording if you asked me about currency:

Do you have a quarter?
No, I only have a dime and four pennies.

but the second if you asked me about money:

How much money do you have?
On me? Only fourteen cents.

One other possibility, if I had to count my money in order to answer your question (in other words, I knew I has some coins in my pocket, but didn’t remember what they were), then I might say it like she did:

How much money do you have?
On me? Let me see. [pulls five coins from pocket] I’ve got a dime…. and four pennies.

I’d assume you could do the math as easily as I could, so I wouldn’t bother to state the sum.

Source : Link , Question Author : apaderno , Answer Author : J.R.

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