I read this in New Oxford American Dictionary:

Energy bills have increased significantly this year.

I am not sure what energy bills are. And I don't think that bills can "increase" is logically tenable.

  • 2
    A bill in this context refers to statement issued by a service provider, detailing charges and requesting payment. Energy bills are bills for some sort of energy commodity like natural gas or electricity.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 3:24
  • So does it mean the speaker has received far more energy bills this year?
    – dennylv
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 3:47
  • 2
    If you have a plural which refers to something countable (like bills) such that the elements are also individually measurable or countable, then if those things increased, it refers to them individually, not to their number. There isn't space in comments to get into this; it's a good topic for another question. We also know from knowledge of the world that bills increase in amount, while they continue to arrive at the same intervals (e.g. monthly).
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 4:18

2 Answers 2


There's at least two ways to interpret this.

One meaning of bill is "a statement of money owed for goods or services supplied" (dictionary.com) and the sentence is saying that people are paying more for energy (for example to light and heat their homes) this year than previously.

Another meaning is "form or draft of a proposed statute presented to a legislature, but not yet enacted or passed and made law," and the sentence is saying that the legislature has considered making more laws about energy than they previously did.

The first interpretation is far more likely without any other context.

  • I am not very sure but tend to prefer the first interpretation. The second is also established but sounds a little strange.
    – dennylv
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 3:55
  • 3
    The second definition of bill is entirely common, at least in the US. On the other hand saying "bills have increased" with that definition is not strictly grammatical, but might be heard in real speech.
    – The Photon
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 3:58
  • Agreed; with the second definition of bill , you are more likely to hear "There have been more energy bills this year", i.e. the number of bills has increased. With reference to energy costs it generally means either the average cost or the cost for most users has increased, i.e. the amount due on most customers' energy bills has increased.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 17:18

This is referring to the monthly charges (a bill) of gas and electricity (energy) a home owner receives. The sentence is stating that this year, they have increased in price when compared to the amount the home owner was paying last year.

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