Italian Language/"denaro" e "denari"


Dear Maria,

Can you please tell me if there is any way to know when to use the singular noun “denaro” (money) as opposed to the plural noun “denari” (monies)?  

Can “denaro” and “denari” be used interchangeably - as per the speaker’s choice?  

Or, are there special instances when one or the other noun is more appropriate?

Thank you so much for your great help.



Dear Rich,

First of all the singular noun “denaro” (money) and the plural noun “denari” cannot be used interchangeably - as per the speaker’s choice.

In Italian in fact we almost always  use  the singular noun “denaro” as in e.g. :“Molto denaro” (a lot of money); “Poco denaro” (not much money); “denaro pubblico” (public money); “denaro contante” (cash/ready money);“Essere a corto di denaro” (to be short of money); “Far denaro” (to make money); “Quanto denaro hai con te?”(How much money do you have on you ?);“Si preparò con il denaro contato” (He had the right money ready); “Sprecò tempo e denaro” (He wasted time and money), etc.

We use the plural “denari” when it is preceded by a cardinal number as in “ Giuda Iscariota tradì Gesù per trenta denari d’argento”(Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins), or in some idiomatic sentences such as “far denari a palate” (to make piles of money).

Lastly I have to tell you that the plural noun “denari” is  also used to indicate not money, but  one of the four suits in playing cards, represented by a red diamond shape as in “Il sei di denari” ( the six of diamonds) or “Giocò  una carta di denari” (He played a diamond).

Have a nice weekend,

Note that the Italian word “denaro” derives from the Latin masculine noun “denarius” , i.e. a Roman silver coin (first minted about 211 BC), which originally contained ten (“deni”, in Latin) “asses”, as its value was 10 Latin “asses”, plural of the noun "as" that was a bronze, and later copper, coin.  

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


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