‘United States is’ vs. ‘United States are’ – plural or singular?

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The United States has always been causing (grammatical) trouble… or have been? “The United States” was treated as a plural noun in most of the 19th century, but the usage shifted during the 20th century towards treating it as a singular noun.

In other words, we understand “The United States” as “the country consisting of united states” in modern English and use singular verbs after it, as in

The United States has a very aggressive foreign policy. (correct)
The United States have a very aggressive foreign policy. (obsolete)

We can see the singular United States also in the following witticism by Winston Churchill:

The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted
every other alternative.
Winston Churchill

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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