Apologise vs apologises; a company apology to a customer

lunatiqfrinj

Senior Member
British English
Suppose you were standing in a shop and the credit card terminal is taking a long time. Your bank is HSBC, they own the terminal, and their account management software is sending messages to the credit card terminal to say sorry for the lengthy wait. Would you expect the terminal to display:

"HSBC apologise for the delay", or
"HSBC apologises for the delay"

I picked the former, because I would say "We apologise...", with "we" being HSBC that is taking a long time to make a decision. I have however had it questioned by a foreigner (and I always find their grammar knowledge more comprehensive than ours) that HSBC might, as a third person, have to "apologises"

Any thoughts?
 
  • Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    HSBC is a collective or group noun, so in BE it could be either single or plural. There is no hard rule for using 'apologise' or 'apologises' in this context.
     

    Paul E

    Senior Member
    English England
    Thorny area, singular or plurals, I always have my doubts but I'm with you on this one - the subtext is almost always we apologise.
     

    Æsop

    Banned
    English--American (upstate NY)
    HSBC is a collective or group noun, so in BE it could be either single or plural. There is no hard rule for using 'apologise' or 'apologises' in this context.
    I don't know where "HSBC" is but the spelling indicates the use of British English--in American English it would be "apologizes." AmE does not construe words like "corporation," "cabinet," and "government" as plurals, and therefore uses singular verbs with them. My impression was that BrE requires a plural construction. Perhaps I was wrong, or usage in BrE is shifting.
     

    lunatiqfrinj

    Senior Member
    British English
    My impression was that BrE requires a plural construction.

    I understand:

    Youth apologises for noise last night
    Youths apologise for noise last night


    Is HSBC a singular noun? Or perhaps the question is better asked as: is it reasonable that only one place in HSBC could be reasoned to be making the statement. There are many branches of HSBC, but they don't all talk to the terminals, ergo HSBCs do not apologise for the delay but HSBC as a unified concept apologises..
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In BE a corporation may be either singular or plural, depending on context.

    Although the letter from HSBC may well say "We apologise ...." it is the singular HSBC that apologises - as a corporate person, a body corporate.
    Think of the letter again. It can't be "I apologise" unless it is "I apologise on behalf of HSBC ...".

    That's the way I think of this example.
    If you look around, though, you will find threads where examples are given of UK companies referring to themselves as both singular and plural in the same piece of text.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
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