Which one of these two statements is correct?

Our staff do ...

Our staff does ...

And is staffs ever correct?

  • 9
    Depending on the answer, the question might be "Are staff plural?" Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 22:18
  • 4
    :p Actually not, though, because it's referring to the word "staff." If the question was "Are cats plural?" It'd be referring to individual cats being plural. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 23:10
  • 3
    Are cats feral?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Feb 8, 2011 at 19:07
  • 6
    Nope. Everybody knows that staff is singular, and that staves are plural. 😈 As in “The Staves of the Five Wizards”, but of course.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 20:38
  • 2
    @KonradViltersten - plural/feral - play on words that both can be used on the object and also rhymes
    – mplungjan
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 9:40

4 Answers 4


In British English, one can say "our staff do", because they use plural verbal agreement to emphasize when an entity is made up of a group of people, whether this entity itself is marked as plural or not. This is also true of companies, bands, sports teams and other things which are commonly used in plural forms as well as singular forms. The verbs are usually plural for one band or many bands ("Many bands play at the festival" as well as "Radiohead are a band").

In American English, one says "our staff does", because in our grammar, we are not concerning ourselves with whether an entity is made up of many people or not. Since staff is singular, we treat it grammatically as singular. It is no different for us than a stick-staff in terms of grammar.

As RegDwight pointed out, this was discussed previously with regards to company names.

  • 3
    I will throw in a link to the question about company names.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 12:51
  • 2
    It depends on what they're doing. If they're all working together as a single entity doing the same thing, it's singular and if they're doing different things it's plural, I believe. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 20:49
  • 3
    With all due respect, although they are not in the majority, there is no shortage of American uses of staff in the plural. This ngram puts the ratio at only 1.6:1 in favor of the singular. Contrast that with the British preference which favors the plural by 3:1. The Brits favor the sing. more strongly than we do the plural.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 17:35
  • 2
    @Jasmine With the greatest of respect, usage doesn't consist of what you personally have heard - it consists of what people do. Here's a magazine article from 1978 Van Halen are from Calafornia if you do a search you'll find that quote as the opening sentence in the tenth para. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 14:39
  • 3
    The problem with n-gram data is that it's very easy to distort the picture by overgeneralizing. In the charts @tchrist linked, things like "the tasks undertaken by our staff are..." would be included. More importantly, it's also case-sensitive for lowercase, even though sentences starting with "Our staff is/are" would be the least likely to be coincidentally adjacent. Just making the search case-insensitive already gives you a 2:1 "is" ratio for AmE and 2.6:1 "are" ratio for BrE. If we look case-sensitive for only "Our staff is/are" we get a whopping 6:1 "is" preference for AmE.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 17:43

I disagree with Kosmonaut. In BrE, staff is used as both a singular and a plural for purposes of agreement, although plural is certainly more popular.

Here are some examples with singular (from the Oxford English Corpus):

  • Since the newspaper staff is inundated with these letters everyday, they have no choice but to publish at least some of them.

  • An intelligence staff is organic to the brigade and its subordinate battalions and squadron.

  • 1
    And Kosmonaut did not exclude singular use in BrE. In general collectives like these are always singular in (careful) AmE and may be singular or plural in BrE depending on whether their unity or their collectivity is more salient in a particular utterance.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 17:02
  • Would have to check corpi(? ;-)), but JD's examples look like "singular when it's about staff as a(n organizational) unit" and "plural when it's about the people in this unit". Commented May 1, 2011 at 16:34

Staff (when meaning a group of employees) is a collective noun with no plural. So, it's "our staff do good work".

When referring to a group of sticks, it's "staffs" in American English and "staffs" or "staves" everywhere else.

  • 1
    The first point - can you back this up? Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 2:48
  • 8
    To me, "our staff does good work" sounds much better
    – Claudiu
    Commented Oct 11, 2010 at 16:46
  • 4
    From the OED: Staff: [treated as singular or plural] all the people employed by a particular organization: "a staff of 600" or "hospital staff were not to blame".
    – craiga
    Commented Dec 22, 2010 at 4:59
  • 3
    Indeed, it could be treated as singular or plural, depending on the context, but from my experience, it's usually in the plural sense e.g. The staff were agitating for a raise, etc
    – Jimi Oke
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 13:40
  • 1
    You "So" conclusion is, according to your own quote of the OED, wrong. shakes head sadly Commented May 1, 2011 at 16:30

With regard to the question "And is staffs ever correct?" I note that a Google Books search for the phrase "merged their staffs" returns nine relevant unique matches, ranging from in year of publication from 1951 to 2014. Here are three typical examples. From Virginia Department of Welfare and Institutions, The Welfare Worker (1951):

The Winchester department of public welfare and the Frederick County department have merged their staffs, in a trial effort for one year. Mrs. Jane Gross, Superintendent of the Frederick County department, will serve as Superintendent of the combined staffs.

From Douglas Fox, The New Urban Politics: Cities and the Federal Government (1972) [combined snippets]:

While the NLC [National League of Cities] and the USCM [United States Conference of Mayors] often clashed throughout their histories on policy issues, with the NLC much less sympathetic to the demands of the larger urban areas, in recent years they have drawn much closer together. In the late 1960s they merged their staffs, and anyone writing to either organization will receive a response on a letterhead with the names of both organizations. At the same time, both groups continue to exist as autonomous organizations.

From Alan Kraut & Deborah Kraut, Covenant of Care: Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in America (2006):

The ecumenical merger that consolidated the most voluntary hospitals into on medical care entity occurred in 1988 in Minneapolis, bringing together the Episcopal, Swedish, Lutheran, Catholic, and Jewish hospitals. The consolidation had begun in 1970 when Saint Barnabas Hospital merged with the Swedish Hospital to form the Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC). In 1988, MMC, which had absorbed other voluntary hospitals, merged with the Mount Sinai Medical Center to form the Metropolitan Mount Sinai Medical Center (MSMC). The hospitals merged their staffs, while their auxiliaries and foundations continued to operate separately. But these hospitals also had financial troubles that continued after the merger.

Google Books search results indicate indicate that in U.S. English "merged their staffs" is much more common than "merged their staff," which yields a single match. From Damien Broderick, The Spike: How Our Lives Are Being Transformed By Rapidly Advancing Technologies (2002):

On Earth, in Vinge's future world, large corporations with better computers merged their staff into linkages of thousands. Is this a horrible prospect of soul death, extermination of the self? One might expect such an interpretation from a libertarian like Vinge, but in fact he suggests otherwise: ...

This is consistent with my experience. When the publisher of the computer magazine I worked on decided to combine that magazine's staff with the staff of another computer magazine that the publisher owned, the process was referred to as "merging staffs." At any rate, that situation is one in which staffs as the plural of staff appears to be correct in the sense of "in common U.S. usage."

  • +1 Nice addition (three years ago!). There's almost a complete answer on this page - (nobody has mentioned that even in American English staff sometimes takes, and has to take plural agreement ...) Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 23:08

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