Is it "is" or is it "are"?

I was busy writing a Trust Deed and I got to the bit where I say "if there is less than five trustees then ...." and then I stopped. Should I say "if there are less than five trustees then...."

My lovely wife agreed with my first choice - one would say "there are five" but "there is less than five".

I phoned my "linguist" daughter Claire Williams in Durban (she writes copy for Thompsons Travel). She was confident that I should say "there are less than five trustees then ...." so I asked her what should I say if it was "if there are less than two trustees then ...." and she agreed than as less than two is one then I should say "if there is less than two" which would mean that I would have to do some (admittedly simple) mental arithmentic in order to be grammatically correct! I'm not sure about that.

Google didn't help.

I gave up.

The phrase in the trust deed now reads "if there are four or less trustees then ....". Coward!

Post a comment and tell me what you think. I bet I get as many is's as I get are's!

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