Which is correct?:

A and B combined is sufficient


A and B combined are sufficient.

...Basically, is the proper interpretation of 'A and B' as two nouns or 'A and B combined' as a single noun?

  • Perhaps someone can come up with statistical or authoritative support for one or the other (I've done a little unsuccessful googling), but I'd model this on 'bacon and eggs is fine', seeing [A and B combined] as a single agglomeration / set, and using notional agreement. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '19 at 14:00
  • @EdwinAshworth Just a sidenote, the example you brought up only occurs in objects that are used together so often that they become a singular idea (bacon and eggs, cheese and biscuits,...). As for the word "combined" and whether if it helps turn two objects into one, please refer to my answer below. – VTH Jul 2 '19 at 14:22
  • 1
    Note that while combined can result in something either singular or plural depending on interpretation, the same is not true of combination. If you were to say the combination of A and B, the only thing that could follow would be the singular is. (Grammatically, it's because of the placement of the words and how the subject of the sentence changes.) If you want to avoid ambiguity (or at least the appearance of using the wrong verb should somebody interpret it differently), you could rephrase it that way. Assuming you want to convey the singular, that is. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 2 '19 at 14:59
  • @VTH Notional agreement works beyond fixed expressions. _bubblegum pink and tangerine is a lively color combination__Mom.Me . But certainly standard concept pairings (as in colour combinations, meals, indissolubly linked concepts ['health and safety', 'time and motion']) will almost always be involved (ie until someone hits upon a new type of pairing, or colour combination). Often with associated fixed phrases. // But as for whether 'combined' mandates / encourages / allows notional agreement, please see other answers. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '19 at 15:05

In terms of meaning, if you use the singular verb with "A and B combined," you are suggesting "A and B combined" should be viewed as a single entity, like "the set A and B." If you use the plural verb, you are suggesting "A and B" should be viewed as at least two things, A and B, which are combined.

In terms of usage, I did a search on COCA to see what I could turn up. I imposed a couple of commonsense restrictions: A and B both have to be singular elements (or I'd always expect are), and the noun phrases joined by a conjunction have to be the primary subject (so nothing like "sales of A and B combined are..." which relegates A and B to a prepositional phrase modifying sales).

I found three results for combined are:

Health promotion and health education combined are ... ("A Profile of Western (USA) Higher Education Physical Education Degree Programs," Physical Educator, Early Winter 2006)

Medicare and Medicaid combined are ... ("Eldering: Aging with Resilience," Futurist, Jan/Feb 2013)

Good nutrition and regular exercise combined are ... ("Exercise can minimize side effects of drugs used in cancer treatment," News-Medical.net, 4-30-2016)

Here are the results for combined is:

Government study finds Prozac and CBT combined is ... ("Patient, Fix Thyself" Saturday Evening Post, 2007 (Jul/Aug))

A pre- and pro-biotic combined is ... ("Make Way for Mycoprotein in U.S. Food Supply," Consumers Research Magazine, 2001 (Sep))

I can't detect a significant difference in frequency from that sample. The usage really seems to vary based on how the writer is thinking of A and B combined, and not based on a universal rule. Is may be more common in a caption or headline (as the excerpt from the Saturday Evening Post appears to be), or if it's clear the resulting item is a single thing ("a pre- and pro-biotic combined" is a "synbiotic," a single thing.


Both are correct. If A and B are regarded as one thing, they should be followed by ' is'. If A and B are regarded as two separate things, just use 'are'. Examples are from the iWeb Corpus https://www.english-corpora.org/iweb/:

1.Dinner and entertainment combined is $50.

2.Agriculture and tourism combined is what is better known as agritourism.

3.Once your engine's hooked up, it really helps to have the back of the car raised substantially because the engine and gearbox combined are very long and need a particular angle of attack to go in.

4." Sometimes, if the humidity is too high or the heat and humidity combined are high, it could affect what you are going to do the rest of the day, " he said.

  • I would advise against using iWeb as a reference, as they extract excerpts from a multitude of online sources, many of which are not grammatically sound. – VTH Jul 2 '19 at 14:35
  • I think I'd use the same agreement in (/as) each of your examples.(1) and (2) would sound distinctly off with a singular verb-form, to my ears. But I could go either way with (3) and (4). // The analysis reminds me of the 'Is it a compound or is it a mixture?' – when we've mixed carefully calculated masses of A and B (and perhaps retreated rapidly) scenario. But it's probably neither, but 'whichever one the analytical method chosen demands'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '19 at 15:21

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