Why is "the xxx authorities" in plural form?


E.g. The American/Russian/Chinese authorities. I think the subject should be one unit, unless the country was split.

Or should I compare this expression to "the committee", to which some elements agree with in plural form, since "committee" has a plural meaning semantically?


Posted 2020-01-26T20:34:00.740

Reputation: 153

2"Authorities" refers to more than one person. If you were talking about a sports team, you'd say "the American players". I don't think it runs any deeper than that. – jimm101 – 2020-01-27T01:05:59.580

1The singular defaults to an expert individual associated with that country. Compare: “The US authority claimed that the country had emerged from recession.” vs “The US authorities claimed that the country had emerged from recession.” – Lawrence – 2020-01-27T03:41:25.837

To rephrase existing comments, the authorities is a set phrase that will be in the plural even without any adjective at all. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- – 2020-01-27T06:24:18.947



Authority is used in the plural form when you refer to organizations of a specific country:

the authorities:

[plural] the people or organizations that are in charge of a particular country or area.

  • an agreement between the US and Colombian authorities

(Longman Dictionary)


Posted 2020-01-26T20:34:00.740

Reputation: 6 473

I know it came from the dictionary, but that particular example is a little odd: the "the" makes it read as "[the US] and [Colombian authorities]", so that shows the plural form in reference to only one country's authorities, but it seems odd not to refer to both countries the same way, either "between US and Colombian authorities" or "between the US and Colombia". – nnnnnn – 2020-01-26T22:42:02.057

3@nnnnnn: they are referred to the same way. There's an implicit the in it: "the US [authorities] and [the] Columbian authorities. I'll agree it's easy to misinterpret, but I'm fairly sure that was the original intent. – Peter Shor – 2020-01-26T22:49:05.933

1@PeterShor - Sure, but really my point is that however you read it it's not a very good example for what the OP asked about, because when talking about two countries the authorities would need to be plural anyway. – nnnnnn – 2020-01-27T01:14:12.567

Right. If you substituted "President", it would also be plural. – Barmar – 2020-01-27T19:05:42.220