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How to express this in one sentence: there are two companies, one is the most successful in America, and the other the most successful in Canada.

Can we say it like this?

they are the most successful two companies in Canada and America.

or is it like this?

they are the two most successful companies in Canada and America.

If both of the above sentences are wrong, how to express it?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Both of your sentences indicate that the two companies are Number 1 and Number 2 in the whole of North America, and that there no companies from either country ahead of them. Neither sentence is the equivalent of saying that Company A is top of the US and Company B is top in Canada, and you could stand accused of making an unfounded claim.

If you need to indicate that their status is country-specific, you do need to say that.

What you could say (and probably justify) is that the two companies are among the most successful in the United States and Canada; but again, that doesn't indicate that either is top in their respective country.

How about something like the following (which I've just noticed you have suggested in the question title)?

We refer to Company A in the United States and Company B in Canada, the most successful in their respective countries.

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So the 2 sentences I made are not grammartically wrong, just don't indicate what I meant, right? – zwangxian Apr 1 '13 at 5:16
They are not grammatically wrong (although the first is awkward; the second is better). They mean the same thing, and do not mean what you want them to mean. – St John of the Cross Apr 1 '13 at 10:23

I would express it like this:

X and Y are the most successful companies in Canada and the US, respectively.

Just make sure that X is the Canadian company and Y is the US one.

Also, as a side note, "successful" is an awfully vague adjective -- you might want to clarify what you mean by that (most profitable, largest market share, etc.).

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"Company A is the most successful company in the United States, but in Canada it's Company B."

The most precious resource to conserve in writing is your reader's brain.

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Perhaps true, but grammar's still (arguably) important. There needs to be either a semicolon in place of that comma or some sort of conjunction following it. – onomatomaniak Mar 30 '13 at 13:46
Less work for the reader always trumps. But I concede, @onomatomaniak, it's better with a conjunction. – BobStein-VisiBone Mar 30 '13 at 13:52

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