Stocks vs Shares 7 Best Differences (With Infographics)

Understanding the Basics

When it comes to investing, the terms “stocks” and “shares” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a subtle difference between the two that can greatly impact your investment strategy. To fully grasp this, let’s dive into the basics.

Defining Stocks and Shares

Stocks refer to the ownership certificates of a particular company. When you buy stocks, you become a partial owner of that company, giving you certain rights and privileges. On the other hand, shares refer to the individual units into which the ownership of a company is divided. In simple terms, stocks represent ownership, while shares represent the division of that ownership.

The Legal Distinction

Legally speaking, there is no difference between stocks and shares. Both terms are used to describe the ownership interest in a company. The distinction lies in how they are commonly used in different parts of the world. In the United States, the term “stocks” is more commonly used, while “shares” is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.

The Role of Stock Exchanges

Stock exchanges play a crucial role in the trading of stocks and shares. These are platforms where investors can buy and sell their ownership interests. The primary purpose of a stock exchange is to facilitate the efficient exchange of securities, including stocks and shares, ensuring fair and transparent transactions.

Differences in Terminology

While the terms “stocks” and “shares” are generally used interchangeably, there are some instances where the distinction becomes more apparent. For example, when a company goes public and issues its ownership interests for the first time, it is called an Initial Public Offering (IPO). In this context, the term “shares” is more commonly used to refer to the newly issued ownership units.

Ownership and Voting Rights

When you own stocks or shares in a company, you gain certain rights and privileges. These include the right to vote on important matters, such as electing the board of directors or approving major decisions. The number of stocks or shares you own determines the extent of your voting power. Generally, each share represents one vote, but some companies may have different voting structures.

Considerations for Investors

Understanding the difference between stocks and shares is essential for investors. It can influence your investment decisions and overall portfolio management. For example, if you prefer to invest in individual companies, you would typically buy stocks to have direct ownership. On the other hand, if you prefer diversification and want exposure to a broader market, you might invest in shares of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or mutual funds.

Risks and Rewards

Both stocks and shares come with their own set of risks and rewards. As an investor, it’s important to assess your risk tolerance and investment goals before deciding which path to take. Stocks of individual companies can offer higher potential returns but also carry higher risks. Shares of funds, on the other hand, provide diversification and professional management but may not offer the same level of control or potential gains.


While the terms “stocks” and “shares” are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two that can impact your investment strategy. Stocks represent ownership, while shares represent the division of that ownership. Understanding this difference is crucial for investors to make informed decisions and navigate the world of investing with confidence.