Is it "a company who..." or "a company that..."?

What pronoun should you use when referring to a company?

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #351

Collective Nouns

Another way to think of this is that “corporation” and “board” are collective nouns, meaning they are nouns that describe a group, just like “orchestra,” “team,” and “family.” In the United States, collective nouns are usually treated as singular. It would be silly to refer to the corporation with the singular pronouns “he” or “she,” so the better choice is “it.”

It is more complicated in Britain, where collective nouns are usually treated as plural, but then I think it makes sense to fall back on the idea that corporations and boards are entities and can’t take action without people.


Remember, even though you shouldn’t use “who” to refer to a company, just as I said last week in my article about “who” versus “that” for people—that you use “whose” to refer to people or things, such as a table whose legs are broken—it is proper to use “whose” for a company, just as you would for that table.

United Helium, whose bouncy houses were legendary, is being acquired by Gravity Corp. in January.

Next: Can a Book "Say" Something?


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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