One and one <is, are> two

  • panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I fear that in your insistence on one and one is two you are denying the reality of generations of primary teaching. Represented, for example, in the immortal words of Danny Kaye quoted HERE:
    These could, of course, be learnt by rote, just as the chorus of the song “Inchworm” sung by Danny Kaye in the film “Hans Christian Andersen” goes:
    One and one are two,
    Two and two are four,
    etc. etc




    That is certainly the way I was taught.
    Sorry if it doesn't bear grammatical analysis, but you'll not drum it out of my head.

    Explanation?
    The tension created by trying to use a singular verb form with ...
    X and X verb Y
    ... is difficult to accommodate.
    It is possible with one, so that you'll find quite a lot of
    one and one is two, compared with
    one and one are two.

    It is much more difficult when the number is itself plural, so you'll find relatively few of
    two and two is four, compared with
    two and two are four.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I also think it should be "are", not "is", as I was also taught.

    I think it becomes more apparent when you add an object to the sentence:

    "Two apples and two apples are (not is) four apples." "is four apples" wouldn't make much sense.
     

    jaxineau

    Senior Member
    English/Chinese; Canada
    Well what about five times five?
    I learned that the rule for any calculations, one has to use the third person singular verb.
    Replace is with equals.
    One and one equals (to) two.
    Two and two equals (to) four.

    The problem with one and one are two and two and two are four is that one is definitely not two and two is definitely not four. The two ones are not two and the two twos are not four. Only when they are together they are two and four respectively. Thus, they are considered one unit.

    Think about when you are learning math. Do you say one plus four are five? Or one plus four is five?
    I think the latter is what is commonly used.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    I fear that in your insistence on one and one is two you are denying the reality of generations of primary teaching. Represented, for example, in the immortal words of Danny Kaye quoted HERE:




    That is certainly the way I was taught.
    Sorry if it doesn't bear grammatical analysis, but you'll not drum it out of my head.

    Explanation?
    The tension created by trying to use a singular verb form with ...
    X and X verb Y
    ... is difficult to accommodate.
    It is possible with one, so that you'll find quite a lot of
    one and one is two, compared with
    one and one are two.

    It is much more difficult when the number is itself plural, so you'll find relatively few of
    two and two is four, compared with
    two and two are four.
    Context!

    [The sum of] two plus two is four. (Now the logic is clear.)
    Two plus two are four. (Who wants to argue with Danny Kaye!) ;)

    Seriously, I'd be completely comfortable with either, but I think the use of plural ("are") may be more common on your side of the pond.

    For someone learning BE, I'd suggest to at least give "are" careful consideration. :)

    Gaer
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Well what about five times five?
    I learned that the rule for any calculations, one has to use the third person singular verb.
    Replace is with equals.
    One and one equals (to) two.
    Two and two equals (to) four.

    The problem with one and one are two and two and two are four is that one is definitely not two and two is definitely not four. The two ones are not two and the two twos are not four. Only when they are together they are two and four respectively. Thus, they are considered one unit.

    Think about when you are learning math. Do you say one plus four are five? Or one plus four is five?
    I think the latter is what is commonly used.
    Sorry jaxineau, but my Mrs McClure outweighs your sensible logic - for ever.
    She taught me that four and one are five, four and two are six, four and three are seven ... before she taught me that one and one are two.

    She didn't say one plus one are two - so that sounds dreadful.

    If you had been taught by Mrs McClure, you would know just how rock solid this usage is in my brain - more than half a century later.

    Edit: An important PS - all of this is completely irrelevant because no one learns this stuff any more.
     

    jaxineau

    Senior Member
    English/Chinese; Canada
    Sorry jaxineau, but my Mrs McClure outweighs your sensible logic - for ever.
    She taught me that four and one are five, four and two are six, four and three are seven ... before she taught me that one and one are two.

    She didn't say one plus one are two - so that sounds dreadful.

    If you had been taught by Mrs McClure, you would know just how rock solid this usage is in my brain - more than half a century later.

    Edit: An important PS - all of this is completely irrelevant because no one learns this stuff any more.
    Well, whatever works better for you works.
    Nowadays, grammar is not about the rules anymore. It is about how it sounds. If something sounds good, you know what? Go for it. As long as we can still communicate and understand each other. That's the ultimate goal, no?

    PS. We do speak different dialects of English, so we can't really say which one is right or wrong. There are too many thing that differ from BE to CE to AE.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In case jaxineau has taken me too seriously - I'm kind of mocking my obsessive insistence on one and one are two, based on the fact that my primary school teacher, who, as she retired while I was at the school, must have been born in the 19th century, drummed that into me.

    My PS was about the rote learning of basic arithmetic - in a rhythmic class chant (there were four in my class).
     

    jaxineau

    Senior Member
    English/Chinese; Canada
    In case jaxineau has taken me too seriously - I'm kind of mocking my obsessive insistence on one and one are two, based on the fact that my primary school teacher, who, as she retired while I was at the school, must have been born in the 19th century, drummed that into me.

    My PS was about the rote learning of basic arithmetic - in a rhythmic class chant (there were four in my class).
    I didn't take it personally. I sincerely think that whatever works works. It's not like we are having a competition to become the best grammarian in the world. We are just asking questions and helping each other to speak or write a language better. I wouldn't take this too seriously either way. English isn't exactly my native tongue in a sense that I am Chinese-Canadian. However I learned both languages simultaneously. There is just too much to learn for one language. Each day I learn something new and I should learn something new. If the language were just old and static, I wouldn't want to learn it anymore.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I've always said one plus one is two, two plus three is five, etc. Having not been subjected to Mrs. McClure's obviously formidable brainwashing techniques I am further swayed by the logic of the arguments put forward. "Five is five" not "five are five"
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I think that the confluence of math and grammar is what's bothering us here. With numbers, we tend to "do the math" and that invariably comes out as plural. I, however, am on the "is" side of the discussion. One is a number. Two is a number. The fact is that we count "things" and then allocate "a" number to that group of things. If I am teaching a child to count, I'd say: "I have two apples in my left hand and I have one apple in my right hand. When I put the three apples down on the table together, what number of apples do I have?" The answer will always be a singular number regardless of the things I'm counting.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Bill and Mavis are a lovely couple, aren't they?
    How many couples do they make? One.
    That's my point about math vs. grammar. Bill and Mavis aren't numbers - they are individual things. Conversely, I could say: "Three apples, two oranges and a pineapple in a box is a basket of fruit." How many baskets do they make? One.

    To use my previous example, if I put those three apples down on the table and ask the child how many apples are on the table, he would naturally say "There are three apples". But if I ask the number, he will always say "the number is three".
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The point, really, is that there are different usages.
    There is nothing grammatically rigid that demands either a singular or a plural verb.

    There is no point in my trying to convince an "is" person to change, and I won't even begin to try.
    Similarly, there is no gainsaying the power of Mrs McClure's teaching so there is no point in trying to convince this "are" person to change.
    And you have Danny Kaye to contend with too - what a lethal combination.
     

    perfavore

    Senior Member
    USA
    Philippines - Tagalog
    That's my point about math vs. grammar. Bill and Mavis aren't numbers - they are individual things. Conversely, I could say: "Three apples, two oranges and a pineapple in a box is a basket of fruit." How many baskets do they make? One.

    To use my previous example, if I put those three apples down on the table and ask the child how many apples are on the table, he would naturally say "There are three apples". But if I ask the number, he will always say "the number is three".
    Excellent explanations,

    perfavore
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I think excellent examples can be provided on either side and, as Panjandrum has stated, there's little likelihood that you will get someone to switch sides in the debate.

    I think it has to do with whether you are picturing the sum as a single thing or a group of things. "are" makes sense to me because I am picturing the group of things.

    "2 apples and 2 apples (together) are 4 apples" :tick:
    --- not
    "2 apples and 2 apples (together) is 4 apples" :cross:

    That's just my point of view. If you were to say to me, "What is the sum of 2 + 2" I would easily answer "The sum is 4". I think this is the mental picture that the "is" camp has when thinking of the numbers. That's just not the way I was taught.

    I was taught to see them as a grouping of multiple units, not a single sum when I say "2 and 2 are 4." It's similar to being in a restaurant where two couples meet by accident waiting for a table. I say to the hostess: "There are four of us now", not "there is four of us now."
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    In case jaxineau has taken me too seriously - I'm kind of mocking my obsessive insistence on one and one are two, based on the fact that my primary school teacher, who, as she retired while I was at the school, must have been born in the 19th century, drummed that into me.

    My PS was about the rote learning of basic arithmetic - in a rhythmic class chant (there were four in my class).

    Your teacher was right. The rules of math do not apply to English. Math is math; English is English. The rules of math apply to math; the rules of English apply to English.

    It matters not what the sum of two numbers is. Five and five are ten. Or five and five are nine. Or five and five are eight. It does not matter. You have two (2) fives. Your verb has to agree.

    It is very risky to cross apply rules from one discipline to another.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi All,

    Packard, what should I do if I'm reading about mathematics. Suppose I'm reading this equation aloud.

    5 + 5 = 10

    Should I say, "Five and five is (equal to) ten." or "Five and five are ten."

    How about this one (I'm going to use the symbol "*" for the mathematical multiplication operator).

    5 * 5 = 25

    Should I say, "Five times five is (equal to) 25" or "Five times five are 25."

    There is an intersection between Mathematics and English.

    As you practice your sums, can you divorce this from mathematics.
    One and one is/are two. Two and two is/are four. ...etc.

    Is this a question of Engish grammar or the convention for reading mathematics.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hi All,

    Packard, what should I do if I'm reading about mathematics. Suppose I'm reading this equation aloud.

    5 + 5 = 10

    Should I say, "Five and five is (equal to) ten." or "Five and five are ten."

    How about this one (I'm going to use the symbol "*" for the mathematical multiplication operator).

    5 * 5 = 25

    Should I say, "Five times five is (equal to) 25" or "Five times five are 25."

    There is an intersection between Mathematics and English.

    As you practice your sums, can you divorce this from mathematics.
    One and one is/are two. Two and two is/are four. ...etc.

    Is this a question of English grammar or the convention for reading mathematics.

    In English, double negatives do not equal a positive; "no" can mean "yes"; "come" can mean "go", etc. You cannot have those inconsistencies in math or physics or any of the other sciences. While you can use English to describe what is being done in math; you cannot apply math principles to English without getting in trouble.
     

    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Interesting discussion, but it seems pretty clear and simple to me:
    If there is the word and in the sentence, then it should be are, not is.
    One and one are two.
    The emperor and his wife are plotting the demise of their enemies.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is distinct shift in perception from:
    Two and two ... to
    Two plus two ...
    The first is an agglomeration of things and are is natural (for me).
    The second is a statement of a mathematical equation and requires equals, or is.
     

    Marty10001

    Senior Member
    Ireland/English
    This is a very interesting thread - I looked at Fowler and he is less prescriptive than might be expected.

    "Five times six is/are thirty? The subject of the verb is six and not times - therefore we need to know is "six" singular or plural - does it mean "six things" or "the quantity six""
    And he goes on to say "That question each of us can answer, perhaps, for himself, but no-one for other people; it is therefore equally correct to say twice two is four & twice two are four". He continues: "four times six was plural as long ago as 1380 & ten times two was singular in 1425 (OED)"
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi you all,

    As far as multiplication is concerned, you can always use "multiplied by" in place of "times", here goes an example:

    "five multiplied by six is thirty"

    To my mind, there should be "is" above, not "are". Don't you agree?

    Five is multiplied by six, the product is thirty.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    "five multiplied by six is thirty"

    To my mind, there should be "is" above, not "are". Don't you agree?
    I don't agree. That's just like saying "Five times six" or "five and six", in my opinion. The subject of the verb is always either "five __ six" or "five".
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I'm surprised that you tend to use "are" here. Surprised, let's say, to some extent.

    "three and two are five", probably.

    "three plus two are five"? I'd say "is" personally, but you claim it should be "are".

    Then I conclude:

    "three minus two are one"??? - how strange English is...
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It seems like the conclusion is that "whatever sounds right to you is OK to use, as the matter is in grave dispute".
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I understand perfectly. "Three" is more than one... :)
    I don't think so. I believe that we should treat every single number as one unit, no matter if it is 1, 8, 159 or 980. If not, then would you say "two squared are four" instead of "two squared is four"? That makes me cringe...
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Here is the general pattern as it has been drummed into me.
    If the statement is conversational - meaning it doesn't sound like an equation - then I use are. So:
    Three and two are five.
    Three twos are six.

    If the statement is mathematical - it sounds like I am reading an equation - then I use is. So:
    Three plus two is five.
    Three times two is six.
    Three multiplied by two is six.
    Three minus two is one.
    Three squared is nine.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Here is the general pattern as it has been drummed into me.
    If the statement is conversational - meaning it doesn't sound like an equation - then I use are. So:
    Three and two are five.
    Three twos are six.

    If the statement is mathematical - it sounds like I am reading an equation - then I use is. So:
    Three plus two is five.
    Three times two is six.
    Three multiplied by two is six.
    Three minus two is one.
    Three squared is nine.
    Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Probably my reluctance results from my mother tongue habits. In Poland singular is always used in this case. But I can see the difference. Thanks.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi,

    panj wrote:
    ...
    If the statement is conversational - meaning it doesn't sound like an equation - then I use are.
    ...
    If the statement is mathematical - it sounds like I am reading an equation - then I use is.
    Panj's rule is exactly the one I'm familiar with. Of course all of his examples sounded to me like they were mathematical and were reading equations (a degree in Mathematics should count for something). I would use is in all of them. :D
     

    jennball

    Senior Member
    USA English
    As a former U.S. president named Bill (not the husband of Mavis) might have said, "It depends on what the meaning of 'and' is." 'And' means 'plus' when teachers are trying to teach addition to little children who might find the familiar word 'and' less confusing than 'plus'. If they were older and learning algebra, the teacher wouldn't say, 'x and y are z.' So, while 2 and 3 are prime, and 2 and 3 are a couple of numbers, they aren't 5; only their sum is. Teachers could avoid the grammatical confusion by using 'plus' from the beginning.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    As a former U.S. president named Bill (not the husband of Mavis) might have said, "It depends on what the meaning of 'and' is." 'And' means 'plus' when teachers are trying to teach addition to little children who might find the familiar word 'and' less confusing than 'plus'. If they were older and learning algebra, the teacher wouldn't say, 'x and y are z.' So, while 2 and 3 are prime, and 2 and 3 are a couple of numbers, they aren't 5; only their sum is. Teachers could avoid the grammatical confusion by using 'plus' from the beginning.
    That's exactly how I interpreted it (in my mind) at the very beginning - "and" used in lieu of "plus".
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Here is the general pattern as it has been drummed into me.
    If the statement is conversational - meaning it doesn't sound like an equation - then I use are. So:
    Three and two are five.
    Three twos are six.

    If the statement is mathematical - it sounds like I am reading an equation - then I use is. So:
    Three plus two is five.
    Three times two is six.
    Three multiplied by two is six.
    Three minus two is one.
    Three squared is nine.
    I agree.

    You have two different disciplines here.

    The first discipline is English used to describe a mathematical equation. In that case you use the language as an algorithm--to accurately describe the mathematical equation. English here is a translation of the mathematical equation. The rules of math would apply in this case as the discipline is math.

    The second discipline is English itself. When using English as English, mathematics and its attendant rules should not poke its nose it. It does not belong to the club; it is an outsider and its rules do not apply to English.
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    "Everybody knows that one and one makes three"

    One plus one equals two.

    One plus one is two.

    So you can use: makes, equals, is
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Everybody knows that one and one makes three"

    One plus one equals two.

    One plus one is two.

    So you can use: makes, equals, is
    All of these are English representations of mathematical equations. Math rules apply.

    Even the first, with the humorous reference to fertility, represents a math equation, with "three" being a single child.
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    All of these are English representations of mathematical equations. Math rules apply.

    Even the first, with the humorous reference to fertility, represents a math equation, with "three" being a single child.
    Yea, but she's asking about math, not about apples, I saw that example on here. 10 apples plus 10 apples equal/are/make twenty apples.

    So I guess it does depend on the context, but as she was asking purely about math (numbers) then we usually use the singular form :)

    Pablo
     
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