English is not my native language, and I'm having a hard time being convinced that the following usage of the word "counterexample" is correct.

In this age of ever-eroding privacy, the new GoodCompany™ website wants to be a counterexample on how to build a website that protects your data instead of sharing it with third parties.

To me, it sounds like: the good guy is a counterexample of being a good guy.

If both parts of the sentence are synonyms (e.g. good and good, as opposed to good and bad), shouldn't the "counterexample" word be replaced with "example" instead? Thanks.

  • 2
    GoodGuys wants to be a contrast/provide a counterexample of protecting data, as opposed to the example provided by other websites which "share [data] with third parties."
    – user770884
    Jun 1, 2020 at 8:46
  • 1
    Although the colligation 'counterexample on ...' isn't very common, I believe it means 'exception to [the normally found/held/practised theory/stance/behaviour]'. So yes, I'd expect '... a counterexample on "building a website that shares your data with third parties" (instead, protecting your data).' Jun 1, 2020 at 10:50
  • As market-speak, it sounds a little off. Too much like “our competitors are crooks and thieves, but we’re honest men”. Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.
    – user205876
    Jun 1, 2020 at 14:22
  • I was very confused by your conflation of GoodCompany with good guy (I had no idea how the proper name of a company could suddenly turn into a common noun—where did you get good guy from?), until I realized you made an edit that introduced the confusion. Note that it doesn't matter what the name of the company is; it doesn't mean that there are good guys working there. If you remove the mentions of good guy in another edit (to address the inconsistency), please add a note to the bottom of your question indicating you've done so—since an existing answer is still referring to its use. Jun 1, 2020 at 15:01
  • Apparently, they are less concerned about being a counterexample on how to protect against decrepit English.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 2, 2020 at 0:48

4 Answers 4


Formally, a counterexample is an example that disproves a logical claim. These are common in mathematics and philosophy.

A universal claim is disproved by an existential counterexample.

Since a counterexample such a simple way to disprove claims like this, making these generalisations logically is very difficult. Entire fields of pure mathematics and philosophy are devoted to this.

For example “All cars are red”, “no, here is a blue one”. That blue car is a counterexample, it doesn’t have to be the only car that isn’t red but there needs to be at least one to disprove the claim.

In your case, they’re implying that many people think all tech companies are sharing data with third parties. They want people to say, no here is one that represents a different business model.


To me, it sounds like: the good guy is a counterexample of being a good guy.

You have confused "GoodGuys", which is a name, i.e. a proper noun, with "good guys", which is a noun phrase, which means "guys who are good."

It may be less confusing if the name were, for example "Beefo": "...the new Beefo website wants to be a counterexample.

  • I'm not sure I follow. "GoodGuys™" is a name of a company I made up to emphasize that the intention is to show that the company protects the data, not the other way around. It can be "Beefo", what does that change?
    – Paul
    Jun 1, 2020 at 9:29
  • You write To me, it sounds like: the *good guy is a counterexample of being a good guy. By calling the company "GoodGuy" you are creating confusion - the two are unrelated: Not everyone who works for the company "Ford" is a ford - the type of noun is different. It is not "counterexample on*; it is counterexample of and a counterexample of how to build a website.. is a single noun phrase and a complement. of how to build a website. is a defining phrase and cannot be separated. Example and counterexample are words with different meanings.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 1, 2020 at 10:00
  • I changed it to "GoodCompany" if that makes any difference.
    – Paul
    Jun 1, 2020 at 10:38

To me the original construction is just a little awkward and verbose. Something like: "In this age of ever-eroding privacy, the new GoodCompany™ website is a counterexample and builds a website that protects your data."


Yes, you are right that something can be called counterexample only if the context makes it clear what it is the counterexample to. This sentence, considered by itself does not do that.

Now, if the sentence had been preceded by something like 'So far, it has been assumed that all companies in this field have to behave in such-and-such a way', then it could have been said that this company would be a counterexample to that universal assumption: its example will show that it is not the case that all companies in this field have to behave in that way.

Moreover, the use of the preposition on after counterexample is confusing. What the authors probably wanted to say is something like 'this company wants to be a counterexample to that [some universal assumption that is stated in the preceding sentences], by bulding a website that . . .'.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.