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Both terms refer to a company. I want to know if there are differences on when one term would be preferred over the other.

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    Have you seen contexts in which you consider them interchangeable? Or are you asking, because the entries of both list "company" as a translation? – Earthliŋ Jan 14 '17 at 14:54
  • I want to determine if there is a staff size difference between them. – JACK Jan 14 '17 at 15:08
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    What makes you think that this might be related? (And why didn't you say so in your question?) – Earthliŋ Jan 14 '17 at 15:10
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会社【かいしゃ】 kaisha is an independent word meaning "company" or "corporation". In compounds it describes a type of company (and is always pronounced いしゃ gaisha)

  • 航空会社【くうこうがいしゃ】 kūkō gaisha airline company
  • 証券会社【しょうけんがいしゃ】 shōken gaisha brokerage firm
  • 株式会社【かぶしきがいしゃ】 kabushiki gaisha stock company

may be used independently as an abbreviation of 会社, but 会社 is far more standard as an independent word.

In compounds, 社 can be thought of an abbreviation of 会社, e.g.

  • 社長【しゃちょう】 shachō (company) director
  • 社屋【しゃおく】 shaoku company office building

Most often, however, ~社 is used as a suffix, e.g.

  • similarly to がいしゃ above

    • 出版社【しゅっぱんしゃ】 shuppansha publishing company
    • 新聞社【しんぶんしゃ】 shinbunsha newspaper company
  • after the name of a particular company

    講談社 Kōdansha

  • as a counter word for companies (or 神社 "shrines"), giving (apart from the usual 20社 "20 companies") words like

    • 数社【すうしゃ】 "several companies"
    • 本社【ほんしゃ】 "this company" or "head office"
    • 当社【とうしゃ】 "this company"

    cf. 数日、本日、当日

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No, they are not interchangeable at all.

  • 会社{かいしゃ} This is a word, meaning "company", large or small

  • 社{しゃ} This is a single character, which as so often happens corresponds to about half of a word. One of its meanings is "company" as a prefix or suffix in a compound: e.g. 社内{しゃない} means "company-internal", or 他社{たしゃ} means "other-company".

You will find other compounds in a dictionary, plus the original meaning of 社{やしろ}.

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