This is from The Washington Post article :

What's a company to do? In today's litigious and document-deluged workplace, a poorly written manual can lead to liability suits and even low-risk decisions are justified by streams of memos. One solution is training, and American business is already spending more on education than all the U.S. public school systems combined. But increasingly organizations are turning to another solution -- software. The next few years will see a flood of computer programs that either help writers improve what they've written, or do much of the writing for them.

I think, in this context, the plural form 'businesses' should be used because I consider 'business' to mean 'company.'

Am I wrong?

  • 3
    The cited usage is by definition "uncountable", since it uses the singular form. But It would be perfectly valid to use the same word as a "countable" noun meaning (a) company. In which case it would have to be the plural form ...American businesses are already spending more on education... Dec 7, 2023 at 13:51
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Thank you very much.
    – qna
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:59
  • 3
    "American business" reads as "The american business sector as a whole" in the above sentence. If the author chose to say "american busineses", it would have been a very similar overall sentence, but you are not the author so you can't say which the author meant to say.
    – Warren P
    Dec 7, 2023 at 22:02
  • 2
    The answer to the question title is ‘Yes’ — but that's not really what the question body is asking, which has a different answer…
    – gidds
    Dec 7, 2023 at 22:23
  • @WarrenP Thank you very much.
    – qna
    Dec 8, 2023 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


In this context "business" doesn't mean "company". It means "private commercial operations in America, considered collectively" (defn adapted from Wiktionary). In this sense it is uncountable. It means "the business sector" of American society, in contrast to the education, health, or government sectors.

It would be possible to rephrase since "American business" is composed of many businesses. In the same way as "American education" is composed of many schools.

  • And yet we often talk of small businesses, family businesses, local businesses. Are we Canadians really alone in doing so on this side of the Atlantic? Dec 8, 2023 at 20:53
  • Yes, of course. "Business" can also be a countable noun, meaning a company. But in the example it doesn't mean "company". It is an uncountable sense of the word.
    – James K
    Dec 8, 2023 at 22:03
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    Every American business is part of American business.
    – barbecue
    Dec 8, 2023 at 23:51
  • @JamesK Oh, right. I didn't actually finish reading the example, just your answer. Foolish me! Dec 9, 2023 at 1:11

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