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In the dictionary:

share /ʃeəʃer/ noun 1[countable] one of the parts into which ownership of a company is divided

Friendly companies and banks hold (=own) 56% of all shares in Germany’s listed companies.

Why don't we say "buy / own shares from / of a company"?

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  • Who says we don't? When I Googled "buy shares of a company", Google reported more than 100 hits in news stories, more than 5000 hits in books, and over 100,000 hits on the web.
    – J.R.
    Nov 26, 2018 at 15:14
  • You can say buy shares of a company, but usually one says; I bought 10,000 IBM shares. Or: I bought x number of shares in IBM. Now, obviously, generically, one can say: buy shares of a company if you are explaining the idea or writing an article.
    – Lambie
    Nov 26, 2018 at 15:20
  • It is an oddity of English that we buy shares in a company, and that enables us to a share of its returns.
    – JeremyC
    Nov 26, 2018 at 22:45

3 Answers 3

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We "take part in" something, we participate in it.

When you buy shares in a company, you are, in effect, participating in the venture. You share in the risks and rewards.

We can say "he bought ten shares of Acme Widgets", and there the purchase is being cast as an acquisition of some of the company's shares.

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Although prepositions are used conventionally rather than logically, by buying shares, people have a share in a company. They literally own a part of the company. If a company issues 100 shares, a person with one shares owns one-hundredth of the company. They have an interest in the company.

You could also say that people have a share of a company but this is not idiomatic. However we talk about holding some of a company's shares as well as holding shares in a company. They amount to the same thing.

Companies don't normally sell their own shares. They are sold on exchanges and via intermediaries such as banks, dealers and stockbrokers. So you don't buy shares from a company directly.

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We don't say buy shares from a company, because you only buy some thing from company when a company is selling it. Companies or corporations don't sell shares. They are not the sellers of their shares. Their shares are said to be traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges.

Companies don't sell their shares. When they are listed companies, their shares are listed on a market. You buy shares of some company on some stock market. Please read on.

Companies sell widgets. Company shares are sold on markets like NASDAQ,for example.

And yes, you buy shares in a company. He bought 10,000 shares of IBM stock. He bought 10,000 shares in IBM.

A company has some number of shares, called authorized shares. Investors are said to own shares in a company. And that is why the preposition "in" is used.

Share ownership can be expressed in many ways. Here are a few of them.

- He owns 10,000 shares of IBM stock

- He owns 10,000 shares of IBM [where stock is implied and would be stated, if this was a written piece]

- He owns 10,000 IBM shares

- He owns 10,000 shares in IBM

Generally, we would not write: He owns 10,000 shares of IBM, because people who do this occasionally or all the time would more likely write one of the other phrases I wrote out above.

Please note: In my answer, I have dealt with the idea of shares as authorized shares of a company. I have not explained usage for: owning an equity interest or stake in a company, that is, owning a share of a company as a percentage.

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  • Actually, it is not quite true that companies do not sell shares. A company does so, for example, when it needs more capital and issues new shares and sells them. Similarly companies can buy their own shares. By volume of transactions however, shares are predominantly sold by existing shareholders.
    – JeremyC
    Nov 26, 2018 at 22:43
  • Listed companies do not sell shares. Shares of a company are sold on a marketplace by broker/dealers. Private companies can sell shares (private placements). To whomever they wish, in fact. Also, share buybacks and so forth are not handled by the company. There are always third party providers like banks doing the selling. If there is an IPO, there is a bookrunner and/or underwriter. Existing shareholders do not sell their own shares. They place an order with their broker or broker-dealer and that person/company executes the transaction. There is no direct sale of shares.
    – Lambie
    Nov 26, 2018 at 23:05
  • So they might use third parties but on at least some of those occasions the third parties are not the vendors or the purchasers. In the IPOs I have been involved with existing shareholders most certainly were the vendors. There are many different ways of structuring these transactions; it is just too sweeping to say the companies don't sell their own shares.
    – JeremyC
    Nov 26, 2018 at 23:09
  • Ok, well, I see you are all up on this lingo. Please, a vendor?? Surely, you mean a seller/buyer. Listed companies do not directly sell their own shares. Cripes, if they do, my 35 years as a financial translator will have been for naught. And IPOs,undertaken prior to going public, do not involve direct sales by the company doing the IPO. Most are handled by investment banks.
    – Lambie
    Nov 26, 2018 at 23:23

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