Which would be the correct use in the following sentence.

I'm a Shepard and I have many staffs/staves.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, James McLeod, Matt E. Эллен, MrHen, Kristina Lopez Jan 24 '14 at 19:20

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  • Staff — see the "more examples" section. – Matt E. Эллен Jan 23 '14 at 11:00
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    If it's a plural of the item "a staff" (stick) it would be staves. – Liam Jan 23 '14 at 11:26

For staff in the sense of "a body of employees", the plural is always staff; otherwise, both staffs and staves are acceptable, except in compounds, such as flagstaffs. Staves is rare in North America except in the sense of "magic rod", or the musical notation tool; stave of a barrel or cask is a back-formation from staves, which is its plural.

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    Now this develops OP's question, which I'm totally in favour of. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '14 at 10:56
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    However, here is an opinion I agree with: '... the term "staff", when referring to a group of people working together, is a singular count noun with plural reference, like "team". So it is correct to speak of the "staffs" of various companies, just as it's correct to speak of various teams in a league.' – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '14 at 11:17

When referring to a staff in the sense of the following definitions (as you seem to mean, given your example regarding shepherds), both the plural forms staffs and staves are permitted. [source]

. . .

6) a stick, pole, or rod for aid in walking or climbing, for use as a weapon, etc.

7) a rod or wand serving as a symbol of office or authority, as a crozier, baton, truncheon, or mace.

8) a pole on which a flag is hung or displayed.

. . .

11) Archaic. the shaft of a spear, lance, etc.

  • Exactly. Readily answerable by looking in a single source. General reference. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '14 at 10:54
  • I believe staffs is actually american English. In the UK staff(as a plural) or staves would be more common. The only time I've heard the word staffs used is as a common abbreviation of the county of Staffordshire so this could get very confusing. – Liam Jan 23 '14 at 11:25

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