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U.S. has/have

Posted by TheFallen on March 20, 2003

In Reply to: U.S. has/have posted by R. Berg on March 20, 2003

: : : : : : So, Bob, should "U.S.'s" really be "U.S.s'"? I think so. It would then transfer to "United States'" if it were spelled out.
: : : : : : Your comment is keeping me on my perfectionist's toes.
: : : : : : Monica

: : : : : What a good question! Example - "What do you think of the United States' foreign policy?" Monica rightly points out that when written in full, it should be United States', but I have no clue what it should strictly be when the abbreviation is used, either with or without periods. I suspect that most authors would avoid the thorny issue entirely and just go with "US foreign policy".

: : : : It can't be U.S.s', because that would be the plural possessive and there's only one U.S.

: : : : Gotta be U.S.'s. "The U.S.'s foreign policy."

: : : I can't find a rule. But "U.S. foreign policy" looks right to me. No apostrophe.

: : "U.S. foreign policy" works because "U.S." (or US without the periods" is being treated as an adjective, and so dances round the problem.

: : However, Ms. Berg's assertion that there's only one United States (instead of 50) has got me thinking. If this is the case, then correct usage would be "The United States has gone to war - it's the United States's decision." as compared to "The United States have gone to war - it's the United States' decision." This then would suggest that the abbreviated possessive should indeed be U.S.'s, rather than the alternative, which might possibly be U.S.' or even U.S'. - both of which do look a little silly.

: In the US (or U.S.), we'd never say "The United States have gone to war." We say "has" because the name of a nation is singular even if it ends in S. We also say "General Motors has announced . . ." and "The board of directors is . . ." and "The home team has won . . ."

I'm more than happy to take your word for this, even if the original point isn't that the nation's name ends in an S (so does Mauritius, to name but one), but that the states are definitely plural.

To be idly picky, your General Motors example is well-made, but the other two both feature unquestionably singular subjects, namely board and team, so the usage of the singular verb form comes as no surprise.