Essay by FlapperCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 1996

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A contract is an agreement that is enforceable by law. Modern business could not exist without such contracts. Most business transactions involve commitments to furnish goods, services, or real property; these commitments are usually in the form of contracts.

Use of the contract in business affairs ensures, to some extent, the performance of an agreement, for a party that breaks a contract may be sued in court for the damages caused by the breach. Sometimes, however, a party that breaks a contract may be persuaded to make an out-of-court settlement, thus saving the expense of legal proceedings.

A contract arises when an offer to make a contract is accepted. An offer contains a promise (for example, 'I will pay $1,000') and a request for something in return (a person's car). The acceptance consists of an assent by the party to whom the offer is made, showing that the person agrees to the terms offered.

The offer may be terminated in a number of ways. For example, the party making the offer may cancel it (a revocation), or the party to whom the offer is made may reject it. When the party to whom the offer is made responds with a different offer, called a counteroffer, the original offer is terminated. Then the counteroffer may be accepted by the party making the original offer.


For a contract to be valid, both parties must give their assent. They must act in such a way that the other people involved believe their intention is to make a contract. Thus a person who is clearly not sincere in saying that he or she accepts an offer usually is not held to a contract by the courts. On the other hand, a person who secretly has no intention of making...