there is / there are data

  • fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    I don't think this is an American/British distinction; instead, I think it's a "Latin word" issue. Data is the plural and datum is the singular, so it's correct to say data are and a datum is. However, "datum" is no longer used, and "data" is no longer treated by Latin pluralization rules. The same is true for Octopus and Octopuses/Octopi.

    Therefore, it is still correct to say the data are, but in many places, it is now acceptable to use the colloquial, aglicized version and say the data is.
     

    DBlomgren

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, USA
    What would be more correct?

    "There IS/ARE few data on the incidence of infections"

    If this is something for scientists and academics, I would say, "There are few data" since they usually prefer to respect the plural meaning of the word "data."

    If this is for the general public, et al., I would say, "There is little data" since the general public consider this an uncountable noun (a little data, some data, but not "a datum" or "three data").
     

    NAllmark

    New Member
    English - British
    As an English teacher I would teach Data as a uncountable noun.
    So your original sentence would read: 'There is little data....' as you cannot use the word 'few' to modify a uncountable noun.

    But as DBlomgren says, scientists and statisticians treat data as the plural form of datum. So in an academic context it would be correct to write 'There are few data...'
     

    FromPA

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I don't think it's accurate to suggest that only scientists and statisticians treat data as being a plural noun. I think you'll find that data is treated as being plural in most formal writing, regardless of the subject matter.
     

    NAllmark

    New Member
    English - British
    I think you're right that 'data' as the plural of 'datum' is not only used by scientists and statisticians, but is commonly used in a broader range of formal contexts. However it seems to be becoming increasingly acceptable to treat data as an uncountable noun even with formal contexts.

    The online edition of the oxford dictionary lists it as a mass noun (ie. uncountable) and gives "there is very little data available" as its example.

    The concise Oxford Dictionary gives this explanation about the usage:
    "In Latin data is the plural of datum and, historically and in specialized scientific fields, it is also treated as a plural in English. In mordern non-scientific use, however, it is often treated as a mass noun, similar to a word like information, which cannot normally have a plural and which takes a singular verb. Sentences such as 'data was collected over a number of years' are now widely accepted in standard English."
     

    acme_54

    Senior Member
    English UK
    If this is something for scientists and academics, I would say, "There are few data" since they usually prefer to respect the plural meaning of the word "data."

    If this is for the general public, et al., I would say, "There is little data" since the general public consider this an uncountable noun (a little data, some data, but not "a datum" or "three data").
    As a native English speaking translators/editor myself, I've just come up against this in a paper I'm proofreading.
    In normal conversation/in a general public context, I'd be more comfortable with "there is little data". However, grammatically speaking, IMHO "there are few data" is the appropriate form and register for more formal academic/scientific texts.
     

    F-Hernán

    Member
    Noruego - Oslo
    What about 'data samples were taken .. '?

    Moderator's note
    Please open a new thread if you have a question about a different example. Thank you.
    Bevj
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Pliscapoivre

    Senior Member
    English, US
    Hi all,

    So regardless of the plurality of "data", isn't "little" the point rather than "data"? "There is little couscous in the container" would also be correct. Implied is that there is little of whatever, I think. And it's "little" that the verb must match, yes? "Few" for countable and "little" for uncountable, I'd say, reflecting number and amount, respectively. I'd be happy if anyone had further thoughts.
     

    acme_54

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi all,

    So regardless of the plurality of "data", isn't "little" the point rather than "data"? "There is little couscous in the container" would also be correct. Implied is that there is little of whatever, I think. And it's "little" that the verb must match, yes? "Few" for countable and "little" for uncountable, I'd say, reflecting number and amount, respectively. I'd be happy if anyone had further thoughts.
    In the real world, I don't think many native speakers would say "there is little couscous in the container" - even though it may be grammatically correct - and the more "normal" way of expressing the notion would be "there isn't much couscous…".
     
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