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United States (plural or singular?)

United States is a singular noun and takes singular verb forms; for example, we say “The United States is in the Western Hemisphere,” not “The United States are in the Western Hemisphere.” This has been the case for over a century. Think of United States as the name of a country like any other. England, China, and Bahrain, for example, are all treated as singular nouns. United States is the same, even though it takes the form of a plural noun.

For example, these publications treat United States as singular:

According to estimates, the United States is set to hit its current debt ceiling between April 15 and the end of May. [Washington Post]

The United States has issued a rare public apology for the “repugnant” actions of a so-called American “Kill Team”. [Telegraph]

The United States is now actively pushing the United Nations Security Council to approve a wide range of military options that could be used against the Libyan regime. [National Post]


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Possessive United States

Although United States is usually treated as a singular noun, it’s treated as plural when made possessive. United States’, not United States’s, is the preferred form:

Another delicate issue here is the United States’ role in the 1973 military coup. [Miami Herald]

Once we have driven Gaddafi from power it would then be the United States’ job to sort out who the rebels are and whom to put in power. [Global Post]

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Comments

  1. Perhaps ‘the Netherlands’ would serve as a good example, too…

  2. Jessica Jackson says:

    Thank you!

  3. Using the word united as if to say “we are united” is plural.

  4. Peter Shalen says:

    On the other hand, one can still use the expression “these United States.”

    • Because in that instance you are referring to the 50 states of the Union (plural) not the name of the country. So, yes. ‘These’ is correct. But not for the reasons that some might infer by this article

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