5

Suppose my mom asks me to fetch her medicine. I don't know how many pills she is going to take. I take five and show her the pills that I'm holding in my hand. What would likely I say in this situation?

Is it enough?

Are these enough?

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    I think neither. You want to know how many she wants, so just ask that question instead. "How many do you need?"
    – J...
    Jan 24 at 13:45
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    @J... That's not really what was asked though. If we're talking about what we'd actually do when asked to get medicine, the answer is go get the bottle of pills and hand it to her. Why would anyone ask how many she needs?
    – Thierry
    Jan 24 at 18:42
  • @Thierry I guess I mean that, if a native speaker asked you to get their medicine it would mean one of two things - either bring the whole bottle and let them figure it out, or measure out everything needed and bring that, depending on the circumstance. Nobody would expect you to make a guess or bring a random handful of pills for them to fish through. If that native speaker is your mom, she probably expects you might know what pills she takes and asking how many would be the right thing to do if you didn't remember what that was. Otherwise, just bring the bottle.
    – J...
    Jan 25 at 1:00
  • @Thierry And I realize that doesn't answer the question, but the situation otherwise feels contrived, so both answers feel unnatural to me. The action OP has taken would be what I would do if someone had instead asked for "some" of something. "Go get me some marbles", for example - then you could return with some guess at a quantity and ask "Is this enough?" or "Are these enough?". But here, "fetch her medicine" is asking for a specific thing, not a vague quantity like "fetch some pills". So maybe the question could be improved by changing the question if this is all we're after.
    – J...
    Jan 25 at 1:06
  • @J... I Apologize for my interruption. I realize that this question "might" not make sense to others, however, my mom does need some pills and she sometimes needs to eat more than one pill (don't ask me why). I don't include this, because it sounds like I tell about my mom's personal life.
    – user516076
    Jan 25 at 1:44

3 Answers 3

11

I would usually say

is this enough [medicine]?

She asked for medicine which is singular, or "some medicine" which is singular. Even if you are counting individual pills, I don't think you would use either of your examples above. You might just say something like:

how many [pills] did you want?

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    "is this enough?" is indeed the most idiomatic response, but neither of OP's guesses are incorrect. Maybe "I don't think you would use either of your examples" doesn't mean "OP is incorrect", maybe it means "OP's examples above are rarer" Jan 24 at 14:12
  • The nice thing with "Is this enough?" is that it's general - it's fine to use for countable or uncountable things. You could ask "Are these enough?" for things like pills or marbles, which are countable, but if you'd been asked to "fetch some water" instead this doesn't work.
    – J...
    Jan 25 at 1:13
11

Are these enough?

Is fine.

Is it enough?

Is also correct, although a bit weird. It's far more likely you would hear natives say "Is this enough?" instead.

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    +1. This is something I occasionally remark on, people saying "it" where I'd expect one of the demonstratives. For countable things like pills I'd say "are these enough" if I was holding them in my hand, or "or those enough" if they were already in your hands. It always strikes me as a book-learned anodyne way of speaking.
    – CCTO
    Jan 24 at 19:54
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Both of your suggested questions are totally fine. "Is it enough?" asks whether what you brought (as a whole) is enough, hence the singular is fine. "Are these enough?" asks whether the number of pills you brought is enough, hence the plural is fine.

To be clear, you would definitely not use "it" in circumstances in which you single out the pills one by one, such as if you drop them (one, two, three, four, five) into your mother's hand. However, if you just grabbed a whole bunch of them and held them out on your palm, it is certainly fine to use "it" to refer to the entirety of what you brought to her. The best choice of words always depends on the context, which can include not only what you say, but also the circumstances and any non-verbal actions or gestures.

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    @EllieK: Both are fine. Where is your proof that "is it enough?" is not idiomatic? Even if you don't use it, many other native English speakers do.
    – user21820
    Jan 24 at 14:50
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    @user21820 - I do use it but I would use it for an uncountable number. If I filled a dosage cup with a liquid, I would say to you, I filled this cup to the dosage line. Is it enough? I would never show you a countable number of things such as pills and ask is it enough. I would instead ask, Is this enough or Are these enough. So it is idiomatic in the right situation. This is not that situation. Jan 24 at 16:34
  • @EllieK: What you would not use does not imply anything about what others would not use. English is not as dogmatic as you claim it to be. I said very clearly that using "it" refers to the whole lot that you brought, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
    – user21820
    Jan 24 at 16:50

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