The word "government" is a countable noun when it refers to the organization or the group of people that govern a country. But it can also be an uncountable noun when it means a form or system of government as in "The country returned to democratic government."

Now, here's a quote from a book.

The combination of these two trends ... produces an incredible concentration of power in the hands of government and large corporations.

I would have expected to see "in the hands of governments and large corporations" or "in the hands of the government and large corporations. A definite article before "government" because in my understanding, the word "government" here refers to the political organization rather than the process of governing or some form of government.

What does the term "government" mean in the quote above? Does the lack of a definite article have something to do with the parallel structure (as in "between father and son")?

  • 1
    (1) You don't say, but is government or governments actually mandated in the article? Is it referring to one nation at one time? (2) If 'the government' is allowable here, 'government' is a close paraphrase, not emphasizing/connoting Mr Washinton and co (or whoever the key players involved at the time are) quite so forcibly. Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 19:10
  • I think "government" here is synonymous with "those who govern" or "those who run the government." Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 5:19
  • @aparente001 Thanks. So it's like "management" = "those who are in charge of a company."
    – Barouche
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 5:54
  • @EdwinAshworth The author is not referring to any specific country, and the "government" is used in a general sense. I ask, because it does not sit right with me when government, apparently used as an uncountable noun, is used in parallel with "large corporations," which refers to multiple corporate entities in general.
    – Barouche
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 5:58
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth - Big business, perhaps? Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


The phrase "in the hands of government" has been used by authors such as Thomas Jefferson countless times since the 1700s.

For example Letter to James Madison By Thomas Jefferson, December 20th, 1787

Nor will any degree of power in the hands of government prevent insurrections.

"government" means "authority" or "legal authority"

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