The answer to big problems is always small solutions.


The answers to big problems are always small solutions.

I believe these are both correct grammatically, but the singular ("is") sounds more concise and brevity is preferable.

Can I get a language ruling on this?

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  • 1
    Both are perfectly grammatical, and both are perfectly horrible. I'd rewrite from scratch. – RegDwigнt Mar 18 '15 at 14:53
  • Grammatically they are both valid. Semantically the singular makes no sense. And logically they are both wrong. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Mar 18 '15 at 14:54
  • As an aside: rewriting will also help with the brevity thing. Saving three characters is no brevity, especially when half the words can be removed completely. – RegDwigнt Mar 18 '15 at 14:56
  • Seems like this is also valid grammatically for the singular: The answer to big problems is always a small solution. I agree with @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇- logically this makes no sense. – Jim Mar 18 '15 at 15:02
  • What about recomposing as follows: the answer to any big problem always starts with a small solution – Brandin Mar 18 '15 at 15:22

Both are correct. Grammatically as well as in their meaning.

However, the two versions differ in their meaning.

The answer to big problems is always small solutions.

--> The answer to the (question of) big problems is always (the class of) small solutions, a generalization. (The precedent reference of is being the implied "the question of," or something of that sort.)

The answers to big problems are always small solutions.

--> Each big problem has its own small solution; applies uniformly across problems.

The first sentence structure may sound confusing to a reader not familiar with the usage.

  • 2
    You don't answer a problem. You solve it. The solution already is an answer, and expressly labeling it as such is awkward to say the least. The OP is really looking to say "solutions to big problems are always small", or simpler still, "big problems have small solutions". Coincidentally, that would also help him in his brevity-is-wit endeavor. – RegDwigнt Mar 18 '15 at 15:17
  • RegDwigнt♦, and if you want you can further abbreviate it saying 'problems have solutions', even. – Elberich Schneider Mar 19 '15 at 3:10
  • Right, there is a concept to be conveyed that big problems can not have big solutions; they can only have small solutions but many of them in various applications. – arizonaRm Mar 19 '15 at 4:25
  • @RegDwigнt Think again. The answer is generic and deals with the sentence structure, not the specific example. Macro-focusing can sometimes be a disadvantage. Get the big picture. – Kris Mar 19 '15 at 5:43
  • 1
    @Kris Thanks for clarifying. As pointed out here, the "answer" is in reference to the question: how do we deal with big problems? Not what the specific solution is to a particular big problem. – arizonaRm Mar 19 '15 at 14:27

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