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Which one of these two statements is correct?

Our staff do ...

Our staff does ...

Is staffs correct?

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8  
Depending on the answer, the question might be "Are staff plural?" –  J.T. Grimes Sep 21 '10 at 22:18
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:p Actually not, though, because it's referring to the word "staff." If the question was "Are cats plural?" It'd be referring to individual cats being plural. –  Ullallulloo Sep 21 '10 at 23:10
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Are cats feral? –  mplungjan Feb 8 '11 at 19:07
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Nope. Everybody knows that staff is singular, and that staves are plural. 😈 As in “The Staves of the Five Wizards”, but of course. –  tchrist Feb 24 '12 at 20:38
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@KonradViltersten - plural/feral - play on words that both can be used on the object and also rhymes –  mplungjan Jun 7 at 9:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 23 down vote accepted

In British English, one can say "our staff do", because they use plural verbal agreement to emphasize when an entity is made up of a group of people, whether this entity itself is marked as plural or not. This is also true of companies, bands, sports teams and other things which are commonly used in plural forms as well as singular forms. The verbs are usually plural for one band or many bands ("Many bands play at the festival" as well as "Radiohead are a band").

In American English, one says "our staff does", because in our grammar, we are not concerning ourselves with whether an entity is made up of many people or not. Since staff is singular, we treat it grammatically as singular. It is no different for us than a stick-staff in terms of grammar.

As RegDwight pointed out, this was discussed previously with regards to company names.

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3  
I will throw in a link to the question about company names. –  RegDwigнt Sep 21 '10 at 12:51
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It depends on what they're doing. If they're all working together as a single entity doing the same thing, it's singular and if they're doing different things it's plural, I believe. –  Ullallulloo Sep 21 '10 at 20:49
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With all due respect, although they are not in the majority, there is no shortage of American uses of staff in the plural. This ngram puts the ratio at only 1.6:1 in favor of the singular. Contrast that with the British preference which favors the plural by 3:1. The Brits favor the sing. more strongly than we do the plural. –  tchrist Nov 21 '12 at 17:35

It is best to put the word "members" when you intend plural and "member" with the singular form after such nouns (staff, family, team ...). So, you say, "Their staff members are ..." and "The staff member is ...".

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I disagree with Kosmonaut. In BrE, staff is used as both a singular and a plural for purposes of agreement, although plural is certainly more popular.

Here are some examples with singular (from the Oxford English Corpus):

  • Since the newspaper staff is inundated with these letters everyday, they have no choice but to publish at least some of them.

  • An intelligence staff is organic to the brigade and its subordinate battalions and squadron.

EDITED: Removed useless example.

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And Kosmonaut did not exclude singular use in BrE. In general collectives like these are always singular in (careful) AmE and may be singular or plural in BrE depending on whether their unity or their collectivity is more salient in a particular utterance. –  Colin Fine Sep 23 '10 at 17:02
    
Would have to check corpi(? ;-)), but JD's examples look like "singular when it's about staff as a(n organizational) unit" and "plural when it's about the people in this unit". –  Jürgen A. Erhard May 1 '11 at 16:34

Staff (when meaning a group of employees) is a collective noun with no plural. So, it's "our staff do good work".

When referring to a group of sticks, it's "staffs" in American English and "staffs" or "staves" everywhere else.

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The first point - can you back this up? –  Neil Fein Sep 22 '10 at 2:48
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To me, "our staff does good work" sounds much better –  Claudiu Oct 11 '10 at 16:46
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From the OED: Staff: [treated as singular or plural] all the people employed by a particular organization: "a staff of 600" or "hospital staff were not to blame". –  craiga Dec 22 '10 at 4:59
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Indeed, it could be treated as singular or plural, depending on the context, but from my experience, it's usually in the plural sense e.g. The staff were agitating for a raise, etc –  Jimi Oke Apr 13 '11 at 13:40
    
You "So" conclusion is, according to your own quote of the OED, wrong. shakes head sadly –  Jürgen A. Erhard May 1 '11 at 16:30

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