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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?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Chenmunka, tchrist, TimLymington, Marv Mills Sep 9 '15 at 11:44

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    I would go for "is really enough" though I can't explain why either. – Centaurus Aug 30 '15 at 15:25
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    @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
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    @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.

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