I am a teacher and we are in doubt if the plural form of staff is staffs. We have been debating on this topic.


"Staff" as a collective noun meaning a body of people takes either a singular or plural verb depends on whether you're thinking of the body as a unit:

The staff is unanimously opposed to the dean's recommendation.

or as multiple individuals

All the staff were shocked by the dean's recommendation.

The plural of "staff" is "staffs," and when you talk about staffs, you're talking about separate bodies of people, which, of course, requires a plural verb:

The staffs of both colleges were supportive of the joint program.

  • 1
    The rat says sooth. Excellent answer.
    – Anton
    Jul 28 '15 at 8:59
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    Good answer. But as someone has commented below one could just as easily say the staff of both colleges. I think I would only use staffs if I was wanting to draw attention to their separate collective status e.g. the different languages spoken by the two companies' staffs made the merger between the French company and its German competitor especially troublesome.
    – WS2
    Jul 28 '15 at 14:32

Staffs, when you're talking about the staff of Office A and the staff of Office B.

If you are talking about the kind of staff that Gandalf carries, the plural is staves, which is a word I've always liked.

  • 2
    Also in music, the plural of staff is staves. google.co.uk/… Jul 28 '15 at 8:43
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    Personally, I would rather use the singular form staff in the first context. "The staff of offices A and B are entitled to take half a day off preceding a bank holiday" sounds much more natural to me. In fact, if you used "staffs" in this context, I wager that most people would just consider it a typo or poor grammar. I would use "staffs" as a plural of the sort of staff that Gandalf carries in preference to "staves" unless I was going for literary effect.
    – Deepak
    Jul 28 '15 at 10:49
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    Words that are almost always singular can become plural if you talk about varieties. Water, as a non-count noun, is singular until we talk about varieties of water: "In Mexico, where they told us not to drink the water, the connoisseur can find many delicious bottled waters to sip during lazy afternoons at a table in a sidewalk café. My favorite is Topo Chico." Then there's the expression, "Still waters run deep." With those precedents it's easy to imagine the staffs of Stripling-Blake Lumber and Brick House Construction meeting for a game of softball, each staff comprising a team. Jul 29 '15 at 20:54

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