"5 votes was chosen to be the number of close votes needed to close a question on Stack Exchange."

Grammarly says that I should change "was" to "were," but it doesn't sound right to me. What's the correct conjugation to use here, singular or plural?

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    You should always be suspicious of what Grammarly tells you. It makes a lot of mistakes, and in this case, it's wrong. Jun 24, 2018 at 12:42
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    The elephant in the room is that the first "votes" has no right to be there in the first place. What do you mean, "votes were chosen to be the number of votes"? No. Five was chosen to be the number. Not five votes. Just five. Five is a number. Votes is not. And yes, uninstall Grammarly. Right now. It is broken, it is wrong, it makes horrible mistakes even in its adverts. Every second that you have it installed will make you dumber until you reach the level of stupidity exhibited by its creators. You know English. Grammarly doesn't, and couldn't even if it tried, and it doesn't even try.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jun 24, 2018 at 13:59
  • @RegDwigнt An excellent point, and one that I'd overlooked in my answer. Jun 24, 2018 at 19:19
  • You using quotes. Why?
    – Lambie
    Jun 24, 2018 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


To paraphrase your sentence, you would say:

The number of close votes needed was five.

The subject of the sentence is the number (singular) so the verb takes a singular form.

(Or, more precisely, it's the entire subject phrase the number of close votes needed, because the number is modified by of close votes needed. But for the sake of this explanation, it's easiest to think of just the number.)

Just as you would say:

The number is five.
The numbers were five and six.

Again, the verb matches the singular or plural subjects.

So, going back to the actual phrasing of your sentence:

5 was chosen to be the number of close votes needed.

The subject remains the number and the verb remains in the singular.

Note: As per a perfectly correct comment, the number of votes cannot be 5 votes; it is simply 5. I have edited the actual sentence to correct this.

The sentence in question has been constructed in such a way that 5 votes misleads you into thinking that it's the subject.

  • In the sentence Four votes is not enough to close a question, is the subject enough? How does that work, when you would never say Enough to close a question is not four votes. Jun 24, 2018 at 12:44
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    The essentials of this sentence: Four votes are not enough. (This is similar to the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.) Jun 24, 2018 at 13:08

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