Business Writing

Talk, tips, and best picks for writers on the job.

Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Share this page

« Understanding Dashes and Hyphens | Main | Focus on Value So Others Don't Fix on Costs »

October 13, 2015


George Raymond

When writing about a company, British English can use a plural verb and singular pronoun, as in this photo caption from The Scotsman: "Barclays are planning to speed up its cost-cutting drive by axing more than 30,000 jobs."

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi George,

Yes, they can--but should they? No! In that example, "are" with "its" makes no sense to the eye or the ear.

I am wondering whether you support that construction. In any case, thanks for sharing it.


Matthew Stibbe

Very strongly feel that companies should be singular when you write about them but you can use the first person plural when you are writing *as* them, using their voice. For example, 'here at Articulate, we feel that companies should be singular'. My feeling is that it rather depends on your perspective as the author - in or out - rather than grammar per se. But very interesting to see so many authorities take a more ambiguous or flexible line.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Matthew,

The two clients who asked my advice agree with your approach--plural when writing about themselves. I too think it works--it's just wordier than the alternative: "Articulate feels that companies should be singular."

Thanks for stopping by.



Hi Lynn. Very good point. consider this:

Tutorials Point (I) Pvt. Ltd provides no guarantee regarding the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of our website or its contents including this tutorial.

I think it lacks of consistency. Are you agree?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Shakiba, the comment below has been edited. I did not read the sentence closely enough before.

The problem with the sentence is that the writer uses the third-person verb form "provides" with the first-person pronoun "our." The sentence should be either:

"Tutorials Point (I) Pvt. Ltd provides . . . its website" OR
"Tutorials Point (I) Pvt. Ltd provide . . . our website"

The second example works better because the first will result in two uses of "its" referring to two different nouns.

May I point out that your closing sentence should read "Do you agree?" You probably saw that and could not edit your comment, but I need to mention it for the benefit of others.



No I did not realize that. I am learning English.
I thought "agree" has noun form :).

When I saw that sentence in an ebook (= .pdf) I told the author that his sentence did not make sense. This sentence has been printed on, over 50 or maybe 100 ebooks. Then he told me that he has talked to an expert and the expert has said the sentence has no problem. The author is from India and uses British-English.

Before coming here, I asked on English-community and someone there lead me here.

Thanks again.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Shakiba,

I edited my previous comment because I had looked at the original sentence too quickly. Please review my previous comment again.

The "its" that appears in the original sentence is fine because it refers to the website, that is, "the website's contents."


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Share this page
© 2005-present - Syntax Training - All Rights Reserved