Are companies/groups of people considered plural? What about their initialisms?

I'm unsure if I should use have (plural verb) or has (singular) in the following situations:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation have developed a prototype ...


The Federal Bureau of Investigation has developed a prototype ...

and when using just the initialism:

The FBI have ...


The FBI has ...

If I'm referring to the FBI as a group of people, then I'd obviously go with have, whereas if it's an entity on it's own, then it'd be has.

Is there a preferred/recommended use in this case?

  • 1
    I've found this Q/A, but it doesn't mention initialisms
    – Alex L
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 6:29
  • I don't think the initialism factor determines anything about appropriateness of tense. Either way, much discussion here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1338/…
    – Merk
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 6:36
  • I'd suggest the OP read through the cited references and return to decide if he would still like to keep this question. If he has found a satisfactory answer, either this post can be closed as duplicate or the OP can post the answer he has found.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 6:55

2 Answers 2



The FBI have...

if you're writing/speaking British English, and

The FBI has...

if you're writing/speaking American English.

Yanks don't often think of companies/groups of people as collections of individuals, but Brits much more often do. That's my justification for my recommendation.

And if you're writing a formal paper, don't switch back and forth. Journal editors don't like it when you mix BrE and AmE idioms and spellings. They prefer consistency, if they care at all.

  • Cheers - I'm Australian, so I'll go with have. You've also solved another problem for me - I now know what BE and AE stand for. (for what BE and AE stand?)
    – Alex L
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 7:05
  • 1
    what BE and AE stand for. The other structure is stilted, stuffy, stale, stodgy, and stifling.
    – user21497
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 7:28
  • this is something up with which you will not put?
    – Alex L
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 8:20
  • 1
    Strictly, surely, specifically, and 'solutely .
    – user21497
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 8:29

Use with the initialism whatever form of the verb you'd use with the full title.

  • That would effectively make this a duplicate question.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 6:56

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