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Company law in context
Company law in context

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2.2 What is a ‘company’?

In Part A, we will start by examining some of the basic concepts which will underpin your understanding of the course. We will begin by examining what you think a company is (you do not need to have previous legal knowledge for this).

Activity 1: What does ‘company’ mean?

Timing: 0 hours 10 minutes

What do you understand by the word ‘company’? What do you think a company is, or does?


There is not really any right answer to this activity, for different people have different conceptions of what the word ‘company’ means. Perhaps you came up with some of the following, which are listed under the word ‘company’ in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary:

  • a social party or assembly;

  • a number of individuals assembled or associated together; a body of people combined for some common object;

  • a legal association formed to carry out some commercial or industrial undertaking;

  • a party of actors, entertainers, musicians, etc.

You might have had some idea that most companies are concerned with running businesses; in which case your ideas of a company are closely related to what companies actually do, and not just what they are. This, too, is important, as we will see in due course that much of the law relating to companies arises out of the fact that most of them are business undertakings.

Our studies will be concerned in particular with the third of the ‘definitions’ in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in the activity above. (We will not be too concerned with musicians and parties!) We will be exploring how in the eyes of the law persons may ‘combine’ to form companies, and what are the consequences which follow from them doing so. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary definition will turn out to be only a starting point for the legal concept of what a company is.


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