I have an Excel sheet with a series of variables and the formula output. I am trying to report what the data is (are?).

Should I say the "data are suggesting," or "the data suggests"? The latter sounds correct, but the former appears to be more accurate. Or does it even matter?

  • 3
    There are still a few people who insist that "data" is always plural in construction. But that train left the station decades ago.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 20:53
  • 2
    @HotLicks- Not in my god damned decade! ;-) Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 20:59
  • Say "the data suggest..." Your first option sounds as though the data are jumping up and down making a racket. Your second option may or may elicit a frown from a reader. Be safe and say "the data suggest.."
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 22:33
  • I am not going to buck the tide of people who cannot wrap their minds around the idea of ending a plural-number word in anything except an ess-sound. Anyone who can swallow "media" as a singular-number word will swallow anything. Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 7:29
  • Was this prompted by this tweet?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 8:59

3 Answers 3


Although "data" is the plural of "datum," these days "data" is used in both singular and plural constructs with the same meaning. To me, the singular form sounds better (i.e., "the data suggests"). Here's an explanation from Merriam-Webster:

Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it was originally the plural. It occurs in two constructions: such as a plural noun (like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifiers (such as these, many, and a few) but not cardinal numbers, and serving as a referent for plural pronouns (such as they and them); and as an abstract mass noun (like information), taking a singular verb and singular modifiers (such as this, much, and little), and being referred to by a singular pronoun (it). Both constructions are standard. The plural construction is more common in print, evidently because the house style of several publishers mandates it.


"Data" is the plural of "datum." So you should say, "The data suggest." Or, as Ricky recommended in his comment, "The data would suggest."

  • 2
    Sounds a bit archaic, does it not. "The data would suggest" is one elegant way to skirt the issue.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 20:45
  • 3
    Not archaic; correct. But your suggestion is indeed elegant. Thank you. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 20:49
  • 1
    Remember that we are using English, not Latin. Data is an English word, derived - like many others - from a Latin original. Consider how the word is used in modern English, not Latin, and I think you'll see that it's clearly a mass noun, the same as for instance snow. You say "the snow is falling", not "the snow are falling". Also, the word 'datum' is hardly ever used, perhaps only in specialized fields like surveying, where the meaning really isn't the same as the singular of data.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 1:09
  • I've been considering how the word "data" is used (and misused) in modern English for over four decades as I have worked to improve the writing of others. Perhaps the problem is my age? ;-) Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 1:14

The most commonly used form is singular. "The data is suggesting..." or "The data suggests..." are both common and expected constructions.

"The data would suggest..." is also fine, but indicates a degree of uncertainty, as if your data is incomplete or premature in some way, or perhaps common sense is contrary to the current conclusions.

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