Can an organization or a place act as a person? My example:

My office and I wrote down some possible topics to discuss for the meeting tomorrow

I was told that this is incorrect because an "office" can't write. Could anyone direct me to this rule?

  • 3
    This may be an issue with law, but not everyday English.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 1 at 23:17
  • 4
    The verb determines, not the noun. Any noun used in such a construction outside its normal range will be reconstrued as being something else with the appropriate range, like Canberra demanded immediate action, which refers to international affairs instead of Capital Territory. Jun 1 at 23:45
  • Your office (meaning the people working in it) can jointly write something, but it's very odd to say 'my office and I'. Are you not a member of the team? Jun 2 at 7:57

1 Answer 1


Yes, but there are limits

Consider the following example:

The Boy Scouts and I wrote....

"Boy Scouts" can refer to either the organization known as "The Boy Scouts" or a group of youth who simply are "Boy Scouts." Most people, however, never interact with the organization called "The Boy Scouts." Most interact with a local troop or small group of youth, which is why this works.

The Rotary Club and I wrote....

Members of the Rotary are called (in English) "Rotarians." However, like the Boy Scouts, people understand the phrase in reference to a specific and well-defined group of people. So while it would be better to say "The members of my local chapter of Rotary International and I wrote...," native English speakers would easily understand what you mean.

Coca Cola Corporation and I wrote....

@HotLicks mentioned that your issue may be a legal one. I suspect something like this is what @HotLicks had in mind. "Coca Cola Corporation" is a corporation. Corporations have legal representation and protection in a way that's similar to individual people. Therefore, it's valid to refer to a corporation as if it were an individual person.

It's worth noting that while what I just said is valid, it would be very, very odd to see a sentence written this way. It would be far more common to see something like, "Jane Smith, representing Coca Cola Corporation, and I wrote...." I'll explain why in a moment.

Which brings us to your example.

My office and I wrote....

This isn't correct. The reason is that "office" is too ambiguous. While a native English speaker would probably understand your intent, the word "office" has so many different meanings that we would be jumping to a conclusion about which one you mean. That's never good.

In English, the issue is whether or not you can identify the noun as "definite" or "indefinite." Are you talking about a limited, countable group of people or a vague, undefined group?

"Boy Scouts" can be considered "definite" because most people think of the "Boy Scouts" in terms of a single troop of Scouts (a single object), not the entire organization. It's something definite because there's usually only one troop that the average person is dealing with (or a limited number of troops, still countable).

The same is true for "Rotary Club." People tend to think of it in terms of their local chapter or a group of people they know. This is something definite because there's (usually) only one chapter or club in an area.

You can now see why corporations are more unusual. While they legally can be perceived as a single entity, in reality people perceive corporations as faceless, even people-less entities, especially when they get big enough to be recognized internationally. Due to a corporation's legal standing, they could be used in a definite context — but most people only know them in an indefinite context.

And this is why "office" (even when constrained by "My") doesn't work. It's indefinite. Are you talking about two or three coworkers, or everyone in a company that employs 10,000 people? Are you referring to the people in the room where you work, or on the floor where you work, or in the building where you work? If I don't know anything about your office, can I assume it's like my office?

So, in answer to your question: yes, in English an entity can "behave" or be treated like a person — but there are limits. As someone who is improving his or her English, it would be better to avoid the question by not using entities unless forced to. A much better way to write your sentence is,

My coworkers and I wrote down some possible topics to discuss at the meeting tomorrow.

And in deference to @JohnLawler's concern, he's absolutely right. If a noun an be confused with multiple definitions or applications, it gets harder to use in this way. If you said, "Coca Cola and I wrote..." we can assume you're talking about the corporation and not the drink, but only because we know a bottle of Coca Cola can't write. It's better to avoid the situation.

  • 1
    There's a delightful story about the Victorian organist Best, a prickly character, being introduced at a civic function at, I believe, St. George's Hall, Liverpool, by something like 'The organ will now play the National Anthem'. After a long pause, the mayor, I believe, went to enquire about the delay. Best replied 'Oh, I thought you said the organ would play it.' Jun 2 at 13:28

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