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There's a pet peeve that I encounter often while reading advertisements and business names. It's the deletion of plural forms of words.

For example, today I noticed a place called something like "Purcell Tractor and Equipment". Equipment is plural (I'm assuming), but tractor is left as singular. Why isn't it called "Purcell Tractors and Equipment"?

Some places would go as far as to call themselves simply "Purcell Tractor", though that's less common.

So my question is, what is the reason or possible history for leaving words as singular in commercial and formal names? Is there a rule for when to do this? I'm sure there's a major company with a name like this, but an example escapes me.

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  • Around here (in the US) we have a "grocery store, a book store, and a shoe store" not a "groceries store, a books store, and a shoes store". But everyone knows they have more than one product for sale. Is this is a US/UK difference?
    – GEdgar
    Oct 3, 2017 at 0:21
  • You make a good point, however in the type of instance I referred to it is an actual name of a company and the name seems to have both a singular and plural in it.
    – Tagger
    Oct 3, 2017 at 0:33
  • Equipment is not plural. Why would you think that it is?
    – phoog
    Oct 3, 2017 at 2:12
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    Tractor is a bit of a special case. While most product nouns appearing in front of company or corporation can be used as an attributive, Tractor actually can be used as a sort of hypernym for anything farm related. There are a lot of game, fish, and farm terms that work this way, where the singular is used for the marketed or processed version of the thing. Tractor Supply, for instance, doesn't sell tractors. They sell damn near everything else for a farm, but not tractors. Tractor is like hardware, it has an idiomatic use in business names.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 3, 2017 at 2:54
  • That makes sense. I wish you would post this as an answer rather than a comment. Someone downvoted my question, but your answer is exactly the explanation I needed and shows that there is a legitimate answer...
    – Tagger
    Oct 3, 2017 at 22:27

2 Answers 2

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'Ford Motor Company' is the largest enterprise I can think of which singularise their product.

And maybe they are responsible for the habit in the first place.

As my learned friend has just pointed out, this is a matter of attributive nouns.

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  • 'Motor' is used as an attributive noun here; these are very often in the singular form. 'Chelsea Footballs Club' would be ridiculous, though I dare say they own quite a few. Oct 2, 2017 at 23:35
  • All of them playing as bad as each other, I would guess.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 2, 2017 at 23:39
  • Yes, the 'Motor' in Ford Motor Company is simply referring to the product they make, not the fact that they sell 'motors'. It's a little different. But in a case where a company does not make, but sells a product only, that is the situation which confuses me.
    – Tagger
    Oct 2, 2017 at 23:54
  • 'Bensons Beds Ltd' is a company near me which distributes beds (made in China) all over the south of England. But if they made beds, they would be called 'Bensons Bed Ltd.' Yes ?
    – Nigel J
    Oct 2, 2017 at 23:59
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    As an added comment to the Ford Motor Company example, it is interesting to compare it's name to 'General Motors' which is plural...
    – Tagger
    Oct 3, 2017 at 0:56
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It's wholly irrelevant. Business names do not follow grammatical rules. Who doubts that, please ask the business registrar in your jurisdiction.

Broadly, here in Britain, the only rules for business names are that they don't conflict with existing business names, they don't infringe copyright, they're not offensive and they don't attempt to hi-jack dictionary terms.

Also they must not make unjustified claims, which means a little local business with neither capital nor prospects may not call itself The Global International Trading Company, for silly instance - although even that rule is unlikely to be enforced.

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