I don't know which sentence is grammatically correct.

  • 1 or 2 friends is enough.

  • 1 or 2 friends are enough.

  • 1
    Both look fine to me. The one with "is" would be the more appropriate if this were part of a larger sentence like "Having one or two friends is enough for me." Apr 21 '17 at 16:13
  • 1
    It depends on whether you subscribe to notional agreement or proximity agreement in this case. 'One or two friends is enough for any man' notionally corresponds to say '[A circle of] one or two friends is enough for any man' or even, as Pablo Straub suggests (though he is really moving the goalposts), to 'Having one or two friends is enough for any man', and notional agreement licenses the corresponding 'is'. Proximity agreement, on the other hand, demands 'are' to correspond to the nearer element of a disjunctive construction. Apr 21 '17 at 16:40
  • 1
    There is an implicit logical issue with the phrase. If one friend is enough, certainly two friends will be enough too. Which is the actual number required for sufficiency?
    – saritonin
    Apr 21 '17 at 17:35
  • 1
    @saritonin No logical issue, as 'enough' could depend on other (non-mentioned) factors. Like: for sailors 1 friend is enough, but others need 2. In general thus: 1 or 2.
    – Řídící
    Apr 21 '17 at 17:47
  • 1
    I understand 1 or 2 friends means 1 friend or 2 friends and when such compound subjects are combined by the conjunction or, the verb should agree to the nearer subject. So, One (friend) or two friends are enough seems to be grammatical. Apr 21 '17 at 18:03

To me, the singular/plural issue depends on what "enough" refers to; whether it is used in a quantitative or qualitative sense, or at least a countable or non-countable sense.

If "enough" means a sufficient quantity of people in a countable sense, it would be "are": "1 or 2 friends are enough to move the couch."

If "enough" means sufficiency for a qualitative criterion, it would be "is": "1 or 2 friends is enough to make me happy."

That said, I can think of an example that seems ambiguous:

"1 or 2 people are enough to feed a village of cannibals." This would be in the countable sense of a recipe: 1 bucket of potatoes, 3 bunches of carrots, and 1 or 2 people.

"1 or 2 people is enough to feed a village of cannibals." This would be in the non-count sense of the village having a sufficient amount of (non-countable) food (and it's really referring to people meat that has been divided up or consumed, rather than countable people at that point).

I changed "friends" to "people" because even cannibals don't eat their friends (well I'm just guessing on that point).


Both could be grammatically correct. It depends on the context in which it is said.

If the thought ends after 'enough' then is is correct. This could happen if, for example, the statement were the reply to the question "How many friends do you need in order to be happy?"

If the thought doesn't end there, and 'enough for some purpose' is implied, then are is correct. This would be the case if the statement were a reply to "How many friends do you need to help you carry your fridge downstairs?"

When we chat informally, there are a great many things we don't say because the situation makes the meaning clear to everyone present. Those unsaid things have an effect on the grammar of what we say, which in turn makes our meaning clearer to the people we're talking to. That makes it difficult to arrive at a straight answer when we isolate a fragment of conversation, as we're doing here.


"2 friends are enough" would mean that each of the '2 friends' is somehow 'enough' by themselves, like "[1 or] 2 apples [of the 35] are red."

However, 'enough' (as in the question) refers to the numerals/numbers only. Therefore: 'is'.

How many of the apples are red? 1 or 2 [apples] are red.

1 or 2 apples are red.

How many friends do you need? 1 or 2 [friends] is enough.

1 or 2 friends is enough.

You could also flip it around:

1 or 2 is enough friends.


1 or 2 are enough friends.

Or take a larger number:

300 friends is enough.


300 friends are enough.

You'd say

That's enough friends.


Those are enough friends.

But for red apples it's different:

Those are red apples.


That's red apples.

So, 'red' and 'enough' are different kinds of words. I'll leave it to the specialists to explain it with more fancy terminology (likely: 'enough' as an adjective vs 'enough' as an adverb).

  • Is this the problem with the word enough? Is it okay to say 1 or 2 friends is good? Is it wrong to say 1 or 2 friends are good? Apr 21 '17 at 17:56
  • @mahmudkoya That's a nice example. If those friends are good (you know: like lovely people), then you'd say "1 or 2 friends are good". If you think your friend(s) numbering (counting) 1 or 2 is good (as in: zero friends would be bad, but more is good), then you'd say "1 or 2 [or 300] friends is good".
    – Řídící
    Apr 21 '17 at 18:03
  • I can't understand the first sentence. What does "each ... by themselves" mean here? Are you saying the "are" somehow makes the sentence mean that either friend would be enough, without the other? That's true in the original sentence, since it says "1 or 2," but I don't see any way to get that from the example you give, "2 friends are enough."
    – herisson
    Apr 21 '17 at 18:12
  • For example, take this sentence from Google Books The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of "Enough" by Julia Cameron, Emma Lively: "Three pages are enough to make deep changes, while also maintaining a functional existence in the world."
    – herisson
    Apr 21 '17 at 18:14
  • It doesn't mean "Any single page out of three is enough to make deep changes." It means "three pages are enough, collectively, to make deep changes."
    – herisson
    Apr 21 '17 at 18:15

The problem here is you are not using a complete sentence.

"Having one or two friends is enough" -- that is really the complete thought. And that thought, "having something," does not require a plural verb.

"Having a house, a boat, a car, and a wife, is still not enough for me."

See? It's not the quantity of things that are listed in the sentence. The verb refers to "having a number of friends," not the "friends" quantity.

To put it another way: Working at three jobs is hard.

Three jobs are too many to have.

  • 2
    I don't agree that it is not a complete sentence. "1 or 2 friends is/are enough." Subject: "1 or 2 friends" Predicate: "is/are enough." Grammatically, that forms a sentence. This idea of a "complete thought" is a different matter, but a sentence doesn't have to explicitly express all parts of the relevant thought. Things can be implied; this doesn't make a sentence "incomplete" from a grammatical point of view.
    – herisson
    Apr 21 '17 at 18:56
  • 1
    Sure. But for determining which verb number to use, in this case, the subject is not in the sentence. "Friends are good to have." "Having friends is good also." See the difference? "Friends" is not the subject of the sentence in the second case. I'd argue that the sentence "One or two friends is enough" has an unwritten subject of "(Having) one or two friends is enough."
    – user8356
    Apr 21 '17 at 20:28
  • @user8356, How strange is your argument! You are saying in the sentence 1 or 2 friends is/are..., there is no subject; it should be Having 1 or 2 friends...! If I ask you in your own style, how is your sentence Having friends is good also a completely thoughtful sentence? Can't it be The thought of having friends is good also? At least, would you agree to the fact that in grammar, it is not the complete though that makes a grammatical sentence? Thoughts will vary from person to person and they have no end. Apr 22 '17 at 0:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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