English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Two plus two make four.
Two plus two makes four.

What verb should I use there, make or makes?

Provide a reason also for your answer, please!

share|improve this question
Answered here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/9053/… – relaxing Mar 30 '14 at 16:52
Duplicate as noted by @relaxing – CoolHandLouis Mar 30 '14 at 17:04
@CoolHandLouis We can't close posts here as duplicates of posts there. – snailplane Mar 30 '14 at 17:43
I say "two plus two is four" (when talking about arithmetic) rather than "two plus two are four". Just as I say "two is a prime number" and not "two are a prime number". – GEdgar Mar 30 '14 at 18:25
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You will occasionally hear people employ plus as a conjunction, and even see people write it. But here it is unambiguously a mathematical operator, and the phrase two plus two is unambiguously a single mathematical expression.

Two plus two makes four.

share|improve this answer
A bit of googling shows that it is at least somewhat ambiguous whether you conjugate the singular operation or the collective operands... – relaxing Mar 30 '14 at 16:57

You will find both of these used, but I think you'll find is used even more often than either make or makes. Here's an Ngram:

enter image description here

As for why both are used, that's not hard to figure out. If the subject is singular, the verb makes is used:

The baker makes a cake.

If the subject is plural, the verb make is used:

The bakers make a cake.

So, if the subject is two plus two, that could be considered singular or plural, depending on how you parse it:

  • It could be plural, because we are talking about a quantity of four
  • It could be singular, because we are talking about a single math problem with one answer

Since either argument is a valid argument, you'll see it get used both ways:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
(George Orwell, 1984)

Well, I'm not a star in the mathematics department, but I do know that two plus two makes one less than five and one more than three.
(Tennessee Williams, The Gnädiges Fräulein)

And let's not forget:

Well, one and one is two / Six and two is eight / Come on baby don't ya make me late...
(The Blues Brothers, Sweet Home Chicago)

share|improve this answer

Two plus two "makes" four. The addition "makes" four.

share|improve this answer

I will take the contrarian view and point out that many people say

Two plus two make four

In fact, you will also hear

Two and two make four

The reason: there are two subjects with a plural verb.

The number 2 and the number 2 make 4.

That is why people say it like this. This has nothing to do with being a mathematical formula and everything to do with how English works.

share|improve this answer

As far as I am concerned, there are independent sittings of two subjects of the same nature; however, the word independent speaks about singular, and 3rd person singular subject always follow the "addition of" with its main verb:

Two plus two makes four

Here the subjects are repeated, not plural and the object '4' is a single number despite being compound.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.