Grammar Tip – Staff Is or Staff Are

The word staff is a collective noun. It represents a group. Some other examples of collective nouns are board, committee, company, organization, department, and faculty.

The trick with these words is that when the group is acting in harmony, you must use the singular form of the verb.

Correct

The customer service staff is not available after 6:00 p.m. (This is correct because we are referring to all staff members – no one is available.)

Incorrect

Staff is arguing about the new parking policy. (This is incorrect because the group is not acting as a unit.)??If the members of the collective group are acting separately, you must use the plural form of the verb.

Correct

The committee are arguing about the succession plan.

Note: Although this statement is correct grammatically, I believe it is awkward. I would suggest adding the phrase the members of.

Correct

The members of the committee are arguing about the succession plan.

1 reply
  1. MB
    MB says:

    What would you recommend for the following situation: “The primarily volunteer staff (is/are) experienced professionals from various backgrounds, as well as students and community members.” Because the sentence is referring to the variety of persons within the unit, would it be “are”? Thanks!

    Reply

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