Is U.S. a Noun?
Whether it is in conversation or in various kinds of writing on the Web, you will hear and see the abbreviation U.S. for United States used as a noun, sometimes with periods and sometimes without:
I used to live in the U.S., but now I live in New Zealand.
the resistance to a single payer plan in the US is only a symptom of a far deeper problem at the heart of American culture…
Obesity in the US is owing to several causes.
When we left the U.S., we settled in Chile.
The abbreviation used as a noun is especially common in headlines, again, sometimes with periods and sometimes without:
Putin’s move could be costly to U.S. (CNN)
US, Russia to begin new round of talks over Ukraine (Fox News)
The OED illustrates three uses of U.S. as a noun, but the most recent is dated 1901 and that one refers to the language spoken by Americans, not the country:
1901 Daily Chron. 12 Aug. 5/2 On Saturday we asked what language is U.S., which is announced as ‘spoken’ in the window of a City office.
The Chicago Manual of Style prescribes spelling out United States as a noun in running text and reserving US for the adjective form only. CMOS also prefers US without periods, to match the US postal codes like AR, MI, and WY.
The AP Stylebook recognizes U. S. as a noun as well as an adjective. It calls for periods when the U.S. appears in a running text, but US without periods in a headline.
A question ESL learners sometimes ask is, “Should United States take a singular or plural verb?”
Although some speakers do say, “the United States are,” in conventional American usage, United States takes a singular verb: “The United States is divided into twelve judicial regions.”
On the Ngram Viewer (English corpus), “the United States are” and “the United States is” are neck and neck from the nation’s founding until 1827. The graph shows that the singular usage began to pull ahead in the 1830s; it really takes off in the 1860s, following the American War Between the States.
I’d guess that it’s the rare speaker who doesn’t use the abbreviation U.S. as a noun in conversation. When it comes to formal speaking and written text, however, reserve the abbreviation for adjectival use and write out United States as the noun.
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