I was recently asked this question by a client:
I often get confused over these, so which is correct?
[company] guarantee confidentiality OR [company] guarantees confidentiality
[company] have developed OR [company] has developed
Firstly, I’m pleased he asked, as it means he noticed the issue! The good news is that there isn’t a right or wrong answer here. It’s common to use the singular when you are emphasising the collective entity as a whole, but to use plural when you are referring to the individuals who make up that entity. For example:
Singular: The board has agreed a five-year plan to further its marketing strategy.
Plural: The board have expressed different views on how they want to market the company.
The key is to maintain consistency. If one part of your sentence is singular, don’t use plural as well. This is a very common mistake that I see in writing, but most people don’t know they’ve done it.
Take these example sentences:
- AcmeCo has started selling online. We have a new website that shows off our products.
The ‘has’ is singular here but ‘We’, ‘have’ and ‘our’ make AcmeCo plural. The correct version would be:
- AcmeCo have started selling online. We have a new website that shows off our products. OR
- AcmeCo has started selling online. It has a new website that shows off its products.
Before you start writing, it’s therefore good to decide whether you want to refer to your company as ‘we’ or ‘it’. Although it’s traditionally correct in British English to refer to a company as ‘it’ in the singular, you can choose to refer to yourself in the plural form if you prefer. Some people like the more approachable sound of saying ‘we’, and it’s common usage.
On the other hand, if you are a sole practitioner, using ‘we’ could sound wrong and you’d be better to emphasise the personal nature of your service by using ‘I’ and ‘me’.