Why is 'headquarters' always plural?

Hello my friends, does anyone of you happen to know why the word headquarters does not have a singular form? Yesterday one a German asked me that question and told him I would turn to you to find the answer.

Thanks in advance,

TOEIC short conversations: Customer calls to place an order for dog food.[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten

Headquarters is always written with an S (probably) for the same reason we write all of the following with an S:

  • living quarters
  • sleeping quarters
  • bachelor quarters
  • general quarters
  • close quarters

Unfortunately, I don’t know why any of those are written with an S either. 8)

Maybe somebody else will know…

I’ve often told my students to think of the “quarters” in headquarters in the same sense as “offices” since the headquarters of a company is a place with a lot of offices. But that doesn’t always work well since there is also the expression “head office.” :cry:

But you could also look at it similarly to the way the word accommodations is used.


and barracks? :slight_smile:

I think, accommodation is more often used than accommodations. But barracks is similar to headquarters although you would not say a headquarters but you do say a baracks as well as a crossroads.

I’m quite sure there some type of pattern here…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: Talking about expense reports[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten

I think accommodations is probably used less often in British English than in American English when you’re talking about your lodgings. :lol:

But I’m also very curious about a possible explanation of why headquarters is always plural. I get this question on a regular basis and I’ve never been able to provide a “good” explanation.


My diictionary gives just following examples of words of the kind - formally plural but used as singular (some are uncountable):
barracks, crossroads, headquarters, means, news, oats, series, species, works

Hi Pamela

The words you’ve listed have additional differences. Although they all end with an S and are seen as single things, the usage of the verb isn’t always singular. For example, news is always used with a singular verb, but headquarters can take either a singular or plural verb.

To talk about the place where a company’s main offices are, you’d usually hear the plural verb:
The headquarters are located in New York.

You’d be more likely to hear ‘headquarters’ used with a singular verb when referring to what the people who work there do (at least in AmE :lol:):
Headquarters is pressuring us to reduce costs.

Barracks, means and works are also used with both singular and plural forms of a verb.


from dictionary.com


n : housing available for people to live in; “he found quarters for his family”; “I visited his bachelor quarters” [syn: living quarters]

so if headquarters is a compound word built of head and quarters, it denotes the main place that is described by the word, “quarters” meaning housing, but is not necessarily more than one place.