English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I hope you can enlighten me. I get varying answers in Google and I need to find out which is the correct grammatical structure for these sentences.

The rest of the staff is/are on leave at the moment.

The rest of my family is/are arriving late.

share|improve this question
Why are you so sure that just one of them must be "correct"? – Colin Fine Oct 7 '11 at 10:44
Related: Is “staff” plural? – z7sg Ѫ Oct 7 '11 at 10:53
I think those questions already explain both cases quite adequately. Hope that helps. – z7sg Ѫ Oct 7 '11 at 10:55

I would use the singular (is) in both examples as we are referring one "staff" and one "family", even though they may consist of many people.

The same can be said for the nouns "team", "company", "organisation" etc.

NB: Edited after Peter's comment

share|improve this answer
I would certainly not use the singular (perhaps unless there happened to be only one person, but in that case I would be unlikely to say "the rest of my family") – Colin Fine Oct 7 '11 at 10:43
This answer may be right, but the reasoning is incorrect. The reason you (and, I believe, most Americans) use the singular in these examples is that you are only referring to one "staff" or "family". Would you say "The rest of the paintings is in storage"? – Peter Shor Oct 7 '11 at 11:19
Quite right, terrible (or rather just plain wrong) explanation! Staff is an uncountable noun and family is singular. Will edit immediately! Ps. I'm British and not American, but we do (for the most part) use the same grammar! – Matt Oct 7 '11 at 12:10
@Matt: I would have thought this is one of the areas of grammar where there is a British/American difference. People can say "the government are" and "the staff are" in the U.K., and people generally don't in the U.S. – Peter Shor Oct 7 '11 at 19:57
@Fraser: In my grammar, for "the rest of", as in "a lot of", the verb agrees with the noun following "of". While "rest" is the grammatical subject, it changes number. Consider a shipment of desks. "Half the shipment arrived today. The rest arrives tomorrow." or "Half the desks arrived today. The rest arrive tomorrow." Same shipment, same desks; different verb. The ambiguity here comes from the fact that the nouns "staff" and "family" can take both "is" and "are". – Peter Shor Oct 8 '11 at 14:08

This is my opinion. Family and staff are collective nouns. A collective noun, as we know, may take a singular or plural verb depending on whether we see it as a unit or a collection of individuals. Therefore, if the rest of the family is moving as one, then we can say, "The rest of my family is arriving late" (this means the other members of the family are arriving together).

Fraser Orr is correct in saying that the subject is the word rest but the singularization or pluralization of the verb depends much on the specific noun that follows the abovementioned subeject. Take the following examples.

  • The rest of the apples are rotten.
  • The rest of the book was burned.

The use of this becomes confusing if the noun that follows is a collective noun.

share|improve this answer

Since "the rest" is followed by a plural noun for which one might substitute the pronoun "them," and you wouldn't say "the rest of them is late," I vote for "are."

share|improve this answer

Plural verbs are appropriate here. "Staff" and "family" can both be both mass nouns, and so can take singulars "Steve Jobs' family is mourning his loss", though, a plural can also be acceptable, "His staff are devastated." Nonetheless, the subject of the verb is not "staff" or "family," it is "the rest" with the genitive qualifier ("of the staff/family.") This subject is plural, and requires a plural verb.

The rest of the staff are on leave
The rest of the family are arriving late.
share|improve this answer

The subject of each sentence is "the rest". "Of the staff" and "of my family" are phrases qualifying "the rest".

In the case of "staff" and "family", "the rest" refers to a group of people. The group of people is countable.

The correct conjugation of "to be" for subjects referring to countables will be "are".

The rest of the staff are on leave at the moment.

In the case where "the rest" refers to an uncountable entity (e.g. "the rest of the time", "the rest of the meal", etc.), "to be" will be conjugated as "is".

The rest of the time is yours.

share|improve this answer

I'd go with singular. "Rest" is a collective noun that denotes a group defined by a characteristic. "The rest of the bunch is here."

share|improve this answer
Are you sure? “The rest of the players have decided to stay home and not play.” – tchrist Jan 2 '13 at 22:12

What if I take away the quantified item? Shouldn't the verb should remain the same for consistency?

For instance:

  • The rest of the soldiers is dead

Would become:

  • The rest (...) is dead

Also, what about swapping "rest" for another expression:

  • The leader of the ants is called the queen.

I would say that "the rest" is the noun, so is always singular, regardless of what it is about, which is only a qualifier.

And by the way, this is how the logic works in French, for what it's worth in English grammar :)

share|improve this answer
“The rest of the soldiers is dead” is completely wrong in every context I can possibly think of. Rest may be the grammatical subject, but the verb agrees with the notional subject, which is the qualifier. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 17 '14 at 19:50

It is awkward to say, "While some of the family is here, the rest of the family are on their way." Use the same - singular or plural in such a sentence. I have always used singular with nouns like family, team and staff. Plural is reserved for "families" or "teams."

share|improve this answer
But some is plural, so one would say "While some of the family are here..." and then, presumably are again? "While some of the family are here, the rest are on their way." – Andrew Leach Jan 14 '15 at 21:16

protected by tchrist Feb 22 '15 at 0:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.