Collective nouns - staff <is, are> ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Valosh, Apr 19, 2007.

  1. Valosh

    Valosh Senior Member

    Supervisory staff - once used to professional discretion - is no longer afraid to be seen on the streets in the company of other wage earners protesting against closures, takeovers, or mergers.

    Staff is made up of many people , should I use is or are?

    My husband who is native Australian says 'are', but I (native Belgian) have such a strong feeling that 'is' is better..
  2. silvester

    silvester Senior Member

    Mexico, spanish
  3. Valosh

    Valosh Senior Member

    but yet when I put " are" my computer keeps correcting it to "is" ..saying that "staff" is singular??
  4. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    Time to turn to the trusty dictionary...

    # pl. staffs

    1. A group of assistants to a manager, executive, or other person in authority.
    2. A group of military officers assigned to assist a commanding officer in an executive or advisory capacity.
    3. The personnel who carry out a specific enterprise: the nursing staff of a hospital.

    According to this, there is a plural form. So I would say you should leave it as "is".
  5. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    The question of whether a collective is singular or plural is discussed several times a day on most days. Interestingly there is an AE/BE split on grammatically correct usage.

    In AE,the collectives are singular, and that is the only grammatically correct answer.

    In BE, the collective may be considered either singular or plural, depending on whether you are considering it as a whole or considering its parts.

    The fact that you can have many staffs (one for Engineering and another for Marketing) doesn't change the fact that a staff is a collection of people and may be either singular or plural in BE.

    EDIT: Your computer is not always right when it comes to Engilsh usage :)
  6. mytwolangs Senior Member

    English United States
    "The supervisory staff" is a single entity.
    MAke sure you use the article "The" to start that phrase.
    If it had said "The members/people of the supervisory staff..." THEN you would use "are"
    Therefore, use "is".

    I see you are a native of France so I will guess you know French, so think of it like this - "tout le monde" means "all the people" YET you conjugate être as "est" because tout le monde is basically a single entity.

    This is one of the confusing points of English. How to conjugate "to be".
    The noun sometimes looks like several, but is just one.

    "The Martian Chronicles" is a collection of stories about man going to Mars.
    The Manager board is divided on how to do something.
  7. Valosh

    Valosh Senior Member

    So I was right , and my husband was wrong hey !
    Thank you to all who helped me!
  8. mrbilal87

    mrbilal87 Senior Member

    English (NAmE)
    To me both are correct. It would depend whether you're referring to the staff as a unit ("is") or to the individuals who make up the staff ("are"). In North American English, however, it is much more common to refer to groups as a whole rather than as individuals.

    Apart from what AWordLover pointed out, I wouldn't say it is incorrect in AmE to use the plural in such cases, according to A Writer's Reference. But it would certainly stir up unnecessary confusion here.
  9. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    In AE...

    The staff is...
    The members of the staff are....

    In BE...

    The staff is/are...
    The members of the staff are.....
  10. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    But the staff, as a single entity, is not afraid. It must be a reference to the staff members. Therefore it should be "are" afraid. My own rule is:
    1 The team was victorious.
    2 The team were anxious.

    Having said that, I think it is also a matter of personal opinion which one is "right". In practice, I think it safe to rely on the grammar module in your brain which will automatically select the correct conjugation of the verb depending upon your own perception of the nature of the collective noun.
  11. silvester

    silvester Senior Member

    Mexico, spanish
    It sounds as if you could both be right. Hopefully this didn't cause any friction on the marriage.
  12. Valosh

    Valosh Senior Member

    No friction, just a bit of fun ! He's still certain that he is right, even after all your messages, and I guess I will just have to wait and see what my lecturer thinks !
    Thank you all!
    Valosh xx

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