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I've heard on TV: "We really hope property taxes won't be increased; they are high enough as they are." Would it be ungrammatical to say "...they are high enough as it is."?

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  • They're both grammatical, but idiomatically, native speakers invariably use [noun] is/are [adjective] enough as it is in all such contexts. – FumbleFingers Oct 12 '14 at 19:13
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    @Fumble While it’s true that as it is is certainly far more common, I have heard non-generic pronouns used in the expression more than just a handful of times from native speakers, too, and I would not bat an eyelash at using one myself, either; so I don’t really think your “invariably” is quite justified. “Normally”, yes, but not quite invariably. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '14 at 19:23
  • @Janus: I don't want to split hairs over exactly how often something needs to happen before it invariably happens. But I've no reason to doubt Google Books figures - they're bad enough as it is:54 hits, they're bad enough as they are:7 hits. In my context, I'm happy to use invariably to describe such a preference. – FumbleFingers Oct 12 '14 at 19:32
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    @FF 'Invariably' here is just plain wrong, and you need to retract it. As you really believe, judging by the normal quality of your posts. If you wish, I'll mention that the ratio of Google hits for "they are high enough as it is" to "they are high enough as they are" is less than 5 : 1, as I'd certainly expect from personal experience. I'll delete this when appropriate. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 12 '14 at 22:15
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    @FF M-W, AHDEL, Collins, ODO, CDO, Google Dictionary ... all disagree, licensing only the strict 'always, on every occasion, at all times, without fail, without exception' sense. Nobody could claim that 80% of the time is 'invariably', even with Macmillan's looser second sense. Your use of 'invariably' here is wrong; in general it is unnecessarily unclear. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 15 '14 at 7:37
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Yes, that would be perfectly fine. The two phrasings mean basically the same thing, but with a difference in what you’re talking about.

When you say as it is, the subject it is a generic ‘it’ that refers vaguely to ‘the current situation’ or something like that. It could be rephrased to “the way things currently stand” or “in the current state of things”.

When you say as they are, the subject they refers back to the taxes and is therefore non-generic: it has a specific, concrete antecedent in the previous clause. It could be rephrased to “at the level they are currently at” or “in the state they are currently in”.

While it is theoretically possible to make this same distinction with a singular antecedent as well, there is no real way to carry out the distinction in practice, since you’d end up with it both with the generic, antecedent-less pronoun and with the specific antecedented one:

I hope the income tax won’t be increased; it’s high enough as it is.

If the antecedent is a different pronoun, it becomes possible to distinguish again:

I hope he doesn’t win—he’s big-headed enough as [he/it] is!

But in the end, the difference between the two is negligible enough that I doubt anyone would ever bat an eye or even notice in any context regardless of which option you use.

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    I certainly wouldn't. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 12 '14 at 21:56
  • A Google search for "bad enough as it is" gives 215 000 hits; one for "bad enough as they are" 171 000 hits. I haven't bothered filtering out false positives, but I'm happy enough that this reflects my perception of the interchangeability of the two variants. The data strongly suggests that 'While it’s true that as it is is certainly far more common' is inaccurate, and 'native speakers invariably use [noun] is/are [adjective] enough as it is in all such contexts' just plain wrong. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 15 '14 at 7:46

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