Don't use enough (with or without a noun) as the subject of a negative sentence, ✳‘Enough people didn’t come', but ‘Not enough did’.


Why is it so?

What other pronuns/determiners are restricted in the same way?

  • 2
    Because 'enough people' is the subject of the sentence. Saying they didn't come makes no sense, but "not enough people came" does. A different sentence might make sense: "Enough members didn't come to the meeting so as to make a quorum impossible" but it's still fairly horrible. Aug 24, 2021 at 18:00
  • 3
    Where did a rule that silly come from? No pronouns are restricted this way. Aug 24, 2021 at 19:29

1 Answer 1


There may be some reason to avoid it, because it could lead to scope ambiguity. The sentence "Enough people didn't attend" could mean either "There were enough people who didn't attend" or "There weren't enough people who attended"; in the former case enough has scope over not, while in the latter case not has scope over enough. In many cases, of course, this distinction doesn't matter much.

But there's certainly no rule against this construction, and one can find plenty of examples of it.

From The New York Times:

The proposals to retire early were extremely generous, and if enough people didn’t take the offer, the agency was going to lay people off.

From The Guardian:

The NSW premier says the state is ramping up its compliance because enough people aren’t following the rules.

From Salon:

Maybe enough of us didn't understand that in 2011, finding it simpler and more fun to scoff at Stupid Ned Stark.

From USA Today:

[...]enough people didn’t obey commonsense rules, so the virus spread[...]

  • "But there's certainly no rule against this construction". If you dig into the linked article, you can see that even it doesn't contain the rule the question says it does and in fact says the opposite. (Quite possibly the quote was from a previous version of the page which was fixed.)
    – Laurel
    Sep 3, 2023 at 21:52
  • 1
    It would completely change the meaning of any of these to switch them (not enough people obeyed vs enough people didn’t obey, for instance). So the rule makes a certain kind of sense even if it is not really a rule. I guess you are nodding to this when you mention ambiguity but I don’t really read them as ambiguous so much as absolutely having the other meaning.
    – Casey
    Sep 4, 2023 at 7:37

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