When it comes to possessives and plurals, one word that can cause a bit of confusion is “Company”. Even though “companies, company’s and companies'” all sound the same, their meaning changes.
Company’s or companies?
When something belongs to the company, it’s the “company’s thing”. When it belongs to more than one company, it’s the “companies’ thing”. When you’re just talking about more than one company, you’re talking about “companies”.
Company’s or companies – 9 Examples
“There are too many oil companies.”
“I love my company’s work ethic.”
“We blame the consumers, but often forget about the companies’ responsibilities”.
“Coca-Cola and Windows are the top selling companies”
“I don’t like my company’s new policy on healthcare”
“The blunt reality is, we’re living in companies’ America”
“Not all companies are bad”
“The company’s losses were worse than last year”
“Companies’ greed is responsible for a lot of our problems”
In this article, I want to delve into what the possessive and plural rules are, where the word “company” comes from, and what the difference is between a “company” and a “business”.
Rules of the Plural
Let’s kick things off by talking about the rules of plurals. When you want to pluralise a word, you will never add an apostrophe. Unless you’re talking about something owned by a collective.
Most of the time, to pluralise, we would simply add an S to the end of the word. You can have one apple or two apples.
Words that end in O can either end in S or ES. You have one potato, but two potatoes. You can also have one cello or two cellos.
Generally, musical words have just an S, whereas other words ending in O have ES.
ys vs ies
Words that end in the letter Y can be slightly more challenging to pluralise. But here is a quick guide on what you need to do.
When the letter before the Y is a consonant, you get rid of the Y and replace it with IES. Activity becomes Activities. Lady becomes Ladies.
When the letter before the Y is a vowel, you just add an S. So Boy becomes Boys, and essay becomes essays.
These rules only apply to common nouns. With proper nouns, you always just add an S to the end.
“Jackie and John were the best Kennedys”. “We never get two warm Julys in a row”.
Rules of the apostrophe
We’ve already established that you shouldn’t use apostrophes when pluralising. But this does beg the question of when you should be using it.
Apostrophes are used whenever we abbreviate multiple words into one. For example, instead of saying “you are” we can just say “you’re”.
Instead of saying “You have” you can just say “You’ve”.
Apostrophes are also used when talking about possessives, something owned by someone else. So I might say “I like Sally‘s hat” and I might say “No! That’s the Pie‘s carrot”.
Company vs Business
The word “company” often gets confused with another word, one that has a similar but slightly different meaning, and that word is “business”.
A company is a commercial business.
What does that mean?
A business is owned by someone who counts as self-employed, and they are responsible for any legal matters that their business might face. A company, on the other hand, is its own legal entity.
So if you sue your local family run bakery, the people who run it will be losing money. But if you sue Coca-Cola, you will be taking money from the company itself, not individual people.
The other type of company
There is another definition of company that we haven’t talked about yet—the company of others.
This is an idea that most of the time, we rarely think about. However, since the lockdowns, many of us have been longing for the days that we’ll be able to be in the company of others. You don’t need many people to be in “company” if there is one person you like, you can say that you enjoy being in their “company”.
When you’re lonely, you might say that you could “do with some company”.
How do you pluralise this type of company?
How do we pluralise company in this sense?
If you’re with one person, and then someone else joins, would you say “the companies of two is better than the company of one”? No.
When defining “company” as being with others, you can’t pluralise it as it isn’t a physical thing. You don’t have 1 company, you have the company of 1. Therefore you don’t have 2 companies, you have the company of two.
Only physical things can be pluralised. You would never say “I had a happy, but when I heard the news, I had two happies”.
Initially, company just mean a large group of people. Back then, there were only businesses, as companies didn’t exist.
We got this word from the Old French “compagnie”, which meant society or friendship.
The reason why we call commercial businesses “companies” is that almost all of them have a lot of people who work for them. This could be board members, shareholders, or even employees.
The oldest companies
Let’s go off on a quick tangent to take a look at some of the oldest companies that are still around today.
The oldest company in the world is Kongo Gum, a Japanese construction company. They were founded all the way back in 578 AD, and are still running today.
The oldest company in Europe is Staffelter Hof, a company in Germany who makes wine. They’ve been going since 862.
And the oldest company in America is the fruit company “The Fruit Basket”, started in 1598.
You might think your local pub or bar has been going on for a while. I doubt any of them are as old as these three!
I am a massive fan of my company’s new building.
Amazon and Apple are two companies that don’t always behave.
Companies’ money is actually the American people’s money.
You may or may not agree with those sentences, however, all of them are grammatically correct. Possessive, pluralisation, and apostrophes are something that (let’s be honest here), our English teacher probably didn’t do a great job at teaching. So I’m hoping that I’ve been able to help you more than they ever could.
A company is a business that acts as its own legal entity, and it has the same etymological roots as “I like the company of others”.
The pluralise “company”, we turn it into “companies”. And to show that something is owned by a company, we add “‘s” at the end.