Headquarters, singular or plural?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Packard, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Is "Headquarters" a singular noun or a plural one?

    The company headquarters are/is located in Connecticut.
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    Headquarters can be singular or plural. Here, a single headquarters is described. Use "is."
  3. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    It would be unusual to use 'headquarters' as a plural unless you are talking about the headquarters of different companies or groups. By definition 'headquarters' is THE main location of activity, business, dealings, etc., so technically there shouldn't be more than one for any one group.
  4. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It's context sensitive, and may be either.

    General Electric has its headquarters (sing.) in Fairfield, Ct.

    General Electric and Pitney Bowes have their headquarters (pl.) in Fairfield County, Ct.
  5. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    Precisely- that's a perfect example- the first references only one company and the second, regardless of whether the two companies are related or not, references two.
  6. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    SPECTRE has [regional] headquarters in Kathmandu, Singapore, Sao Paulo, and various uncharted desert islands.
  7. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Thanks guys. We were arguing at work over this.
  8. Mystykmyk

    Mystykmyk New Member

    Provence, France
    UK English
    "Headquarters" when used for the main offices of a company is more commonly plural as in "The headquarters are in Paris".

    Headquarters to denote authority is frequently singular as is "Headquarters has said we must used less paper."

    However singular use is not wrong.
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
  10. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    No one ever said that the English language was simple.

    But I think I've got it now.
  11. uptown Senior Member

    New York City
    USA English
    I wonder if there are regional differences as well. To me, in the northeast US, we always use "headquarters" as a singular (unless of course, in reference to more than one entity). This is an apparent contradition to that American Heritage reference. m-w.com says, "noun plural but singular or plural in construction".

    I think modern usage does allow for a large or global company to have mutliple or regional headquarters.
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    My (ex-RAF) husband has just gone past, looked at the title on the screen and yelled Singular!

    And indeed, if I were talking about a military HQ like the one I used to work in, I would definitely use "is".

    But for a company headquarters (= the HQ of a single company), I'm pretty sure I use both "is" and "are". I was putting this down to that free-and-easy way we Brits have with collective nouns, which was why I was intrigued to come across the American Heritage Dictionary view.

    Packard: if you've put any money on this, I very much doubt you'll collect. Whichever option you bet on...
  13. Porsche944 New Member

    English - American
    Actually, this isn't quite true. In the first example, "General Electric" is singular. In the second example, "General Electric and Pitney Bowes" is plural. Neither example illustrates whether "headquarters" is singular or plural.

    Also, in the UK it's common for entities like companies to be treated as plural even when they seem to be logically singular. In the UK (but not in the USA) you would see "General Electric have their headquarters in Fairfield, Ct." You would even see "The Parliament are meeting today to discuss economic issues".
  14. uptown Senior Member

    New York City
    USA English
    You would definitely not see "The Congress are meeting today" or even "The House of Representatives are meeting today" in American usage, and it would be marked wrong by any (American) English teacher.
  15. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The WR Dictionary says: ' [treated as sing. or pl.]'

    Macmillan (British version), rather pedantically, says it after each sense:
    Interestingly, this is left out in the American version.
  16. retr2327 New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    It's true that the quoted example doesn't settle the issue, since "General Electric has ITS headquarters" does not reflect, and does not need to reflect, whether headquarters is plural or singular. Since GE is singular (at least to U.S. speakers), "its" is singular as well.

    But that misses the more important point: when a usage rule is so ambiguous or unsettled that educated speakers may well disagree (and therefore think you are making an ignorant mistake even though you're not), try to rephrase the sentence so as to avoid that rule. And "General Electric has its headquarters in" (wherever) does that very nicely.
  17. EdisonBhola Senior Member

    Maybe it's "the headquarter is" and "the headquarters are"?
  18. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Sorry, no: it's always "the headquarters" irrespective of whether the following verb is singular or plural. :(
  19. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    It is good to see that we are all of a single mind on this issue.:D

    Regardless of which option I choose I am always right and always wrong. That said, I have a hard time dealing with ambiguity, and androgyny drives me nuts.

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