I was writing a meta post on another site where saying "Done." was a sufficient post. In order to meet the character limit, I typed the sentence:

Sometimes five characters is really enough.

After looking at it, I changed it to:

Sometimes five characters are really enough.

Somehow, as a native speaker, the first one still feels better to me, although I can't figure out why that is or if my feeling is misleading me.

Is my initial pass on the sentence grammatically correct? Does it mean something different than the second take?

  • 1
    I would go for "is really enough" though I can't explain why either. – Centaurus Aug 30 '15 at 15:25
  • 1
    @Centaurus: I think the reason for your preference (which I share) is that we're not so much thinking about the inherently plural subject five [different] characters - rather, it's a matter of that amount, that number (a single value, one of many possible alternatives). – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '15 at 16:23
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I don't think it's a duplicate. That question is specifically about the case where the form is "X and Y is/are enough". This question is about a count situation. – Barmar Aug 31 '15 at 21:42
  • @Barmar: A and B (or 1 + 1) - it (not they :) is still just a matter of ambiguous plurality. – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '15 at 1:29

Sometimes five characters is really enough. Sometimes five characters are really enough.

Here's how I see it:

Five characters is good. ---> a group of five letters is good.

Five characters are good. ---> individually, five characters are all good.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.