Using “enough” correctly

What’s the difference between these two examples?

  1. John doesn’t have enough education.
  2. John’s education isn’t enough.

“Enough” can be used in two quite different ways, but unfortunately grammar books never explain the difference. Let’s see if I can clear it up.

1. Enough + N

In example 1, the word “enough” is right before the noun it modifies: “enough education.” We’re talking about how much education John needs to have. He has some education, but he doesn’t have enough. He needs more education. Here’s a longer example, with context.

  • We’re not going to hire John because he doesn’t have enough education. He only has a bachelor’s degree, but we want someone with a master’s degree for this job.

2. N + be-verb + enough

In example 2, “enough” and the noun (“education”) are not together. They are connected with a be-verb (“isn’t”). We’re talking about all the things John needs to have. He has a good education, but education isn’t enough. He needs something else besides just education. Here’s a longer example with context.

  • John has a PhD from Harvard, but we’re not going to hire him. He has a great education, but education isn’t enough for this job. We need someone with at least five years of experience, but John doesn’t have any experience at all. Also, we’d like someone whose social skills are better than John’s.

More examples

Here are some more pairs of examples to show the difference between “enough + N” and “N + b-verb + enough.”

  • There are 25 people here, but we only have 20 bottles of water. We don’t have enough water.
  • We have plenty of water, but water isn’t enough. We should order some tea and coffee, too.

The first example above means that we need more water. The second example means that we need something else besides just water.

  • My doctor says I don’t get enough vitamins. He gave me some vitamin pills to take every day.
  • I take vitamin pills every day, but my doctor says vitamins aren’t enough. He says I need to get more protein, too, and I also need to exercise more often.

In the first example above, I need more vitamins. In the second example, I need something else besides just vitamins.

  • We don’t have enough conference calls with this customer. We need to arrange calls more often.
  • Conference calls aren’t enough. Sometimes it’s necessary to meet in person.

Okay, I think you get the idea now.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

There’s an old (1992) song by Patty Smyth and Don Henley called “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” (“Ain’t” is an informal word that can mean “isn’t,” “aren’t,” or “am not.”)

Chinese speakers might easily misunderstand what the song is about. They think “love just [isn’t] enough” means “We don’t have enough love” or “We don’t love each other enough.”

Actually, the song is about two people who love each other very much — maybe too much — but love isn’t enough. They love each other, but there’s some other reason they can’t be together. Maybe it’s a problem about money or about their families or something like that. They don’t need more love; they already have plenty of love. They need something else besides just love.

But there’s a danger in loving somebody too much,
And it’s sad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.
There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.

I think that’s enough explanation — but sometimes explanation isn’t enough. Maybe you should just listen to the song!

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

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