The Grammarphobia Blog

Enough said

Q: Enough is enough. Why do I hear “enough of” all the time? To me, the “of” is unnecessary. Maybe it’s just my ear, but I find this grating.

A: All these usages are correct:

(1) “Is there enough?” Here, “enough” is a pronoun meaning “an adequate amount.”

(2) “Is there enough milk?” Here, “enough” is an adjective meaning “sufficient.”

(3) “Is there enough of the milk?” Here, “enough” is a pronoun, followed by a prepositional phrase, “of the milk.” The phrase answers the question “enough of what?”

So both “enough milk” and “enough of the milk” are correct English. They merely represent different grammatical constructions. You might regard “of the” as unnecessary, but it’s not incorrect.

 “Enough!” can also be an interjection expressing impatience or exasperation. And it can be an adverb, as in “Is the milk fresh enough?” Here it’s an adverb modifying the adjective “fresh.”

By the way, the expression “enough is enough” is hundreds of years old, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The earliest citation is from a 1546 proverb collection by John Heywood.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms defines the expression this way: “One should be satisfied; stop, there should be no more.”

The word “enough” itself is much older, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. In Old English, according to the OED, it was genog.

John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins traces “enough” from Old English back to the prehistoric Germanic ganogaz and the Indo-European root nak-, “whose underlying meaning is probably ‘reach, attain.’ ”

Why, you may ask, is the “gh” at the end of “enough” pronounced like “f”?

The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology says the “gh” here was once pronounced like the “ch” in the Scottish loch and the German ach. Although the pronunciation shifted over the years to the “f” of “off,” the “gh” survived.

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