View Full Version : "Company" Singular or Plural?

24th Feb 2004, 12:41
Earth-shattering question.

English: "Ford have just announced..."
American: "Ford has just announced..."

Why is a company plural in English but singular in American?

IIRC, a company is legally a "person" in American law, and thus singular.

The British view seems to be that a company is a group of individuals and thus plural.

Do I have this right?

24th Feb 2004, 13:10
Was always taught it were singular

eg a company of men...one company (singular) men (plural):confused:

Bern Oulli
24th Feb 2004, 14:20
Surely two is company, three (or more) is a crowd, and prolly illegal.

Flying Lawyer
24th Feb 2004, 16:29

A company is a singular.
So ~
'Ford has just announced ....'
'The Directors of Ford have just announced ....'

Re "The British view seems to be that a company is a group of individuals and thus plural."
No and yes. A company is made up of a group of individuals, but it's a separate legal entity or 'person' in its own right. It's true we often (incorrectly) treat it as plural in casual conversation, but that's either when the correct use would sound a little formal or we're being lazy in our use of grammar. Doesn't that apply to both sides of the Atlantic?

BTW, wouldn't '15nm NW of KDCA' take us to Loudoun County? Leesburg area? Towards the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains? Are you sure everyone there uses 'is' and 'are' correctly? I didn't get that impression when I visited your beautiful state last Autumn (Fall). ;)

24th Feb 2004, 17:05
So what have Ford announced??

24th Feb 2004, 17:33
So what HAS Ford announced?

The Invisible Man
24th Feb 2004, 17:41
Has Ford announced anything yet ???

24th Feb 2004, 17:54
If the company is a group of smaller companies, what then?
Ford have announced?

24th Feb 2004, 18:44
Oh for goodness' sake! This discussion is as old and perennial as the Boeing/ Airbus, or Romans vs Christians debate!!

Did you people never study English grammar?

'Company', in this context, like so many others commonly misused such as 'government', 'family', 'team' and even 'number', is a singular but collective noun. That is, whilst it refers to a group or multiple, it is itself singular. Therefore, the only correct form of the verb in question to apply is that appropriate to the third person singular; 'is', 'has', 'does', etc.

Although it may occasionally lead to a ponderous-sounding construction, there is no English/ American, BBC/ ITV thing going on here; simply correct and incorrect. If in doubt, simply assemble your sentence in another way.

Sit up straight, that boy at the back!

Simple, innit?


24th Feb 2004, 18:44
The experts disagree with you. Ask Oxford (http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutgrammar/pluralverbs)

24th Feb 2004, 18:48
I don't think I've ever heard an American use the plural with just one "company".

Does American's makes grammer error's? Of coarse!

Ford has announced a second factory in China.

I'm in Maryland. The Potomac is a bit wiggly and mostly lies NW, not NNW, of DCA. Leesburg is about 20 miles due west of me. Shortest route is to cross the river at White's Ferry. The vessel's name is Gen. Jubal Early - after a Confederate gen'l.

We're upset about the recent Supreme Court decision that allows Loudoun County to draw water from the Potomac. The royal grants gave the whole river to Maryland. That has stood up for a long, long time. Those Rebels have no right to our water.


24th Feb 2004, 18:59
Someone at Ford said that you could have it in any color as long as it was black.

The Invisible Man
24th Feb 2004, 19:07
Someone at Ford said that you could have it in any color as long as it was black.

Was black.... or is black

I dunno !!!!:=

Flying Lawyer
24th Feb 2004, 19:14
That's more tricky.

If one company owns a group of smaller companies, the main (holding) company is still a separate legal entity and singular, so: 'The XYZ Group has announced.....'

On the other hand, 'A group of companies have decided to work together to ........' is acceptable.

Although 'collective nouns' are usually singular, context or idiom may make use of the plural grammatically acceptable. For example: 'Chelsea have just won again' is acceptable, even though Chelsea is a team and a team is singular.
On reflection, that may be a poor example - it's not a common expression, despite the millions spent! ;)


I said in my previous post that strict use of the singular and plural can sometimes seem too formal in casual conversation. 'Pedantic' would have been a better word.

24th Feb 2004, 19:24
On the contrary, the inclusion of Chelsea makes it implicitly common, speaking as a Gooner of course. :E

24th Feb 2004, 19:31
I posted a similar question a while back and came to the conclusion that Ford is singular. But should General Motors be plural?:E :E


24th Feb 2004, 19:41
You, there! Yes, you! Take this board rubber outside and come not back until it be clean.

A solecism remains such and does not, by repetition, assume correctitude.

So-called 'experts' who, by insisting on the 'dynamic' and 'living' nature of the English language seek to excuse its misuse, are, generally, simply too lazy or arrogant to learn its rules and construction.

Slang and common useage are not to be confused as substitutes for 'correct'.

That boy! Go and stand outside until prep!

PS (standing, as most of you hoi polloi are doubtless unaware for post scriptum ) What the farg would a septic know, anyway?

Flying Lawyer
24th Feb 2004, 20:37
I might have guessed! :)

Invisible Man
Henry Ford to his Model-T customers: "You can have any colour you want as long as it is black."
"Years ago, Henry Ford told his Model-T customers they could have any colour they wanted as long as it was black."
Tense, not singular/plural.

"Slang and common useage are not to be confused as substitutes for 'correct'."
I agree with that assertion. :ok: (I won't comment on the grammar or spelling but, as you're leading with your chin, be careful.)
Hasn't 'correctitude' now fallen into desuetude? ;)

24th Feb 2004, 20:43
Well - English grammar has its rules. If you want to know the rules, you can look them up and then use the correct construction. Usage is a rather different topic, as we would be talking about how people actually speak instead of how they should speak.

In my teaching of English, I am frequently surprised at the depth of knowledge that a foreign student has attained compared to a native English speaker. I’m convinced that most “educated professionals” in England would have trouble passing the First Certificate exam in English, which is considered a basic requirement in many foreign countries.

Think of a group of people, and think of dividing them into native speakers and foreign speakers of English. What would be the clues you’d use to distinguish the difference? The ones that speak precisely, with accurate use of English grammar would be the natives, right?

24th Feb 2004, 22:34
Metallic Black is available at extra cost

25th Feb 2004, 08:43
Could somebody forward this thread to a sub-editor in the Beeb's news department? I might try to do so myself later, but it seems a bit technolololological...

I'm up to here (sorry, you'll have to imagine where) with 'ministry (of whatever) are... ', 'Chelsea have scored... ' and contradictions in the same paragraph: 'Apple announced today that its new music player will be launched on Monday. They said it would be available in a range of ... ', etc.

Worse the bloody reporters have taken it upon themselves to be plural bodies: "When we arrived in the town... ", "We spoke to a man who... " and "Even as we're speaking to you now... ". Aaaagh!

We are mightily pissed off with the dumbing down of Auntie Beeb.

Morning grump over. If you were, thanks for listening....


25th Feb 2004, 19:42
We know how you feel OllyBeak and we sympathise with yer, we do.:ok: :E


25th Feb 2004, 21:18
What always strikes me as a foreigner is the English way of saying "police have investigated..." instead of "police has...".
To be heard frequently in the NEWS, the latter of course always being used in a singular form despite it has even got a plural "s"!

Well - English grammar has its rules.

... but certainly not English pronunciation and spelling. What did G.B.Shaw answer when asked how one spells "Fish": "Ghoti".

Gh from enouGH
o from wOmen
ti from naTIon

Now who said English was an easy language? :hmm:

25th Feb 2004, 23:34
....and what about "bough" vs "cough" vs "dough" vs "enough" vs "through", to name but twenty seven?

F Lawyer:

I note with interest that you have edited out your earlier suspicion over "useage". Actually, I would have to give you best over that although one was always taught that letters should, as a general rule, never be added or subtracted when a word became conjoined with a suffix. Thus, "useage" was regarded as correct but is now generally replaced by "usage", having become archaic.

However, I cannot accept your criticism of "correctitude". This word is both valid and properly used. To be pedantic, it is arguably more usually associated with moral correctness rather than simple accuracy.

Incidentally, I assume that your reference to "desuetude" was intended as a supposedly humorous construction and should have read "disusitude". This last is not and was never a word and remains, simply put, bol :mad: x.

Leave your coat on the upper peg and go to your house master's study for a thrashing.

;) ;)

25th Feb 2004, 23:43
fokker, I assumed F Lawyer had used desuetude because it means disuse, discontinuance.

26th Feb 2004, 00:15
It's old, but probably bears repeating for entertainment purposes:

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We had to polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead them to where the lead was hidden.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
For some fishy reason, a bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When the shot rang out, the dove dove into the bushes.
I assured them that I did not object to the object.
The insurance turned out to be invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
He was too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into the sewer.
To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

What a great language!

Recently I was researching words that are commonly misspelt (ironically misspelt is one of them) and found, via our beloved Google, a lot of “correct word listings” on the internet with words spelt incorrectly. Education huh? Its embarassing to see how you're judgment can be effected when your in a hurry.

26th Feb 2004, 00:18
Oh.........................................BUM !

:} ;)

Nice one, Spork. Especially the very last bit. Sadly, the vast majority of the passing unwashed will see nothing whatever amusing in it.


26th Feb 2004, 03:41
The word “company” is a group noun. An incorporated company has a separate legal persona that has evolved over the past couple of centuries or more. The law gives limited liability to the shareholders, and that helps in the collection of investment and management for a common purpose. The company is an entity separate and apart from the shareholders and from the directors.

Grammatically, though, it is easy enough, as with many group nouns, to see that one mind may see the entity as a group and another as indeed an entity, and either mind may change with circumstance. “The Government is...”, “The Government are...”.

The second edition of Fowler’s “Modern English Usage” is forgiving on the topic, under “Nouns of Multitude”. It concludes: “In general it may be said that while there are always a better and a worse in the matter, there are seldom a right and a wrong, and any attempt to elaborate rules would be to waste labour” (p. 403).

This, however, brings me to the unspeakable abuse of singular noun and plural verb that is epidemic today. A candidate for high political office is quoted in today’s newspapers here as saying: “If an employee buys shares in a corporation, they pay the tax upfront”. Forgive the “upfront”. Look at the singular subject noun “an employee” in the conditional clause; look at the plural correlative pronoun and verb “they pay” in the principal clause.

Why is this so? I know why, of course. It is the ignorant wimpery of the age that panders to feminist illiteracy, and replaces “he”, or to be pedantic “he or she”, with a new singular pronoun “they” which always attracts a plural verb form. This horror now appears widely in Statutes of the Parliament of Canada. It should be a national embarrassment, but as an earlier poster asks, in effect, what know they of English who only English know, and that but imperfectly?


Fokker, re "desuetude".

The noun is alive and well, and no humorous chimera. Flying Lawyer is guiltless. One practical example is in the repeal of Acts of the pre-Union Scottish Parliament. If for an indefinite, but long, time, an Act has "fallen into desuetude", it is repealed by implication. Those not in desuetude remain effective, as in the Leases Act, 1494. It appears that no analogous rule applies to Acts of the English Parliament. See Gloag & Henderson, Introduction to the Law of Scotland, 7th ed, p. 391, and the Interpretation Act 1889, s. 11.

26th Feb 2004, 08:22
In essence we're looking at what is acceptable use surely?

In the above, I personally find "they" far more acceptable than the contrived "s/he" which really offends my eye. English lacks a genderless singular pronoun, hence "they" offers a reasonable solution for everyday usage, especially after words such as "anyone" and "no one" which are singular but often imply more than one person.

26th Feb 2004, 08:47
English has done very well for the past many centuries with "he".

Does a German girl feel offended by being "it" (das Maedchen), or a French sentry by being feminine in gender ("une sentinelle")?