The Grammarphobia Blog

Hi tech and low

Q: My son works for a small startup – let’s call it Hi Tech – where he’s the only native English speaker. He’s editing a document, but he’s not sure when to use the possessive of the company’s name. Example: “Hi Tech (or Hi Tech’s) engineers will be happy to answer any inquiries.” Is there a rule?

A: What your son wants to do is to use the company name to modify another noun.

If the noun is plural (like “engineers”), the company name (let’s make it “GM” here) can be used either as a straight adjective (“GM engineers have invented a new solar battery”) or as a possessive adjective (“GM’s engineers have invented a new solar battery”).

With the straight adjective and a plural noun, the article “the” or some other modifier (“some,” “these,” “several,” “our,” etc.) is optional, depending on context.

If the noun being modified is singular (like “engineer”), the company name can also be used as a straight adjective (“A GM engineer has … “) or a possessive adjective (“GM’s engineer has … “).

But with a straight adjective and a singular noun, an article or some other modifier is required (“the GM engineer” …. “a GM engineer” … “another GM engineer” … “this GM engineer,” etc.).

That’s why he wouldn’t write “Hi Tech approach is unique and efficient.” He’d write either “The Hi Tech approach …” or “Hi Tech’s approach …..”

I hope this low-tech answer helps.

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