1)Five and five make ten.

2)Five and five is ten.

I am wondering why 'Five and five makes ten' is incorrect. Even though I know that 'Five and five make ten' is correct, I am unable to explain the reason to somebody in case I need to do so. Why 'five and five' in the second sentence is treated as singular while 'five and five' in the first is treated as plural?

  • Five and five are two items, so they're plural, so you use make. Together, they make ten. Could 2) be an ellipsis of the sum of five and five is ten.? – Formagella Feb 15 '17 at 11:11

In math, we speak of equations or equalities

5 + 5 = 10

The equation, the statement that two expressions yield the same value, can be expressed in natural language in several ways, the first, drawing attention to the equality:

Five plus five is ten.

Five plus five equals ten.

the second, drawing attention to the operation of addition:

Five plus five makes ten.

Five plus five adds up to ten.

Five plus five gives ten.

P.S. We can also say

Five plus five make ten, or add up to ten, or give ten.

The decision to use a singular or plural verb hangs on whether the speaker has in mind two distinct elements ("five ... five", understanding plus to mean "and") or a single expression as the subject, i.e. a singular noun linked by the word plus with another noun, as in "five augmented-by five ...".

These are also valid and grammatical:

five and five makes ten

five and five make ten

five and five is ten

five and five are ten

depending on the speaker's attitude towards the subject, whether it is compound, consisting of two nouns conjoined, or a single expression.

  • This doesn't address the body of the question. OP wants to understand the distinction between "five and five" as a singular operation (which agrees with "makes" or "is") and as a plural set of operands (which agrees with "make" or "are"). Your explanation employs a noun modified by a prepositional phrase, which doesn't occur anywhere in OP's post. – Gary Botnovcan Feb 15 '17 at 16:40
  • Are you considering plus a preposition? BTW, I refer to the whatchamacallit to the left of the verb as an "expression", which does address the OP's question regarding number agreement. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 15 '17 at 16:59
  • Yes. In math it's an operation, but in English grammar it's a preposition. "Plus" is like "with". Other such prepositions include "minus" or "less", "times" or "by", and "over". Since numbers per se are singular, "five plus five" does not agree with "are". "Five and five", on the other hand, is a coordination like "bacon and eggs", sometimes singular, sometimes plural. Bacon and eggs are ingredients. Bacon and eggs is my favorite breakfast. – Gary Botnovcan Feb 16 '17 at 14:41
  • Plenty of speakers say "5 plus 5 make ten" and in doing so they understand plus to be an analogue of and. google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 16 '17 at 14:54

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