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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.

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

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

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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
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@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
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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.

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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."

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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.
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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.

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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."

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