Is "that's two words" grammatically correct?

Or should it be "those are two words"?

I think the second example using "those" is correct since it refers to the word in its plural form.

I could only find examples on the internet where people write "that's two words", and I am not sure if that is right.

  • 3
    It is valid, in the proper context. – Hot Licks May 31 '18 at 23:01
  • 2
    That (statement) is two words (long). – Nigel J May 31 '18 at 23:07
  • The context should be when analysing two words.. like: "self defence" or "common sense" – Anderson May 31 '18 at 23:09
  • There are people here who would argue that open compounds each constitute a single word. Leaving aside that issue: as Nigel suggests, there is notional agreement in " 'Common sense' for a single-word answer? That's two words." ie " ... That answer / suggestion / expression ... comprises/involves two [orthographic] words." Notional agreement is still something of a grey area, so one could estimate this as being say 80% acceptable. "Those are two words" here would perhaps be only 75% acceptable on non-idiomaticity grounds. – Edwin Ashworth May 31 '18 at 23:39

First, let's expand the contraction to clearly show the subject and the verb:

That is two words.

"That"--demonstrative pronoun (singular) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That ]

"is"--a linking verb (singular; NOT an action verb).

When a linking verb is used

"A linking verb ("is," "are," "was," "were," "seem" and others) agrees with its subject, not its complement."

[ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/grammarpunct/subjectverb/ ]

"words"--subject complement (quantified by "two"--numeral determiner)

"A subject complement follows a linking verb; it is normally an adjective or a noun that renames or defines in some way the subject."

[http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/objects.htm ]

Based on that, I don't think it would've mattered if there were 1000 words, as long as "that" referred to something singular, such as an essay...or, another example, a Stephen King novel: I read Duma Key. That's 609 pages!

The last page is two sentences:

Know when you're finished, and when you are, put your pencil or your paintbrush down. All the rest is only life.

(Which reminds me, something singular, as I put it, may be a mass noun, not necessarily a countable noun, if I'm not mistaken...but I'm finished now.)

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