Is it appropriate to say "Are you staff?" when asking someone if they are a staff member, or do you need to say "a staff"? This is regardless of any slang possibly incurred through either spoken, or written English.

Are you staff?
Are you a staff?

Furthermore, would the same rule apply to a specific organization 'ABC', such as:

Are you an ABC staff?
Are you ABC staff?


5 Answers 5


I think that it sounds more natural to say

"Are you on staff?"

Or, as @MattGibson points out, since staff is a collective noun it also sounds natural to say

Are you on the staff?

If you ask, "Are you a staff?" then it sounds as if you are asking whether the person is a long stick of wood. You could, however, say "Are you staff?" This is pretty informal, though.

If you want to make your question more specific by asking whether they are a member of the ABC staff, you can ask:

Are you on ABC staff?

Are you an ABC staff member?

Are you ABC staff?

The last is pretty informal, but should be understood by most native English speakers. It may not sound correct to their ear, though. To be on the safe side, it is best to add a preposition (are you on staff) or to fully clarify that the noun is staff member.

  • 1
    I usually hear the word staffer used for this purpose. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 14:22
  • 4
    In British English, I've probably heard "Are you on the staff?" more than "Are you on staff?". But yes, left or right of the Atlantic, "Are you a staff?" would indeed be an attempt to confirm one's woodenness. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 14:34
  • @MattGibson -- I added in what you said. "on the" works on both sides of the Atlantic.
    – user10893
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:38
  • Can the downvoter please say what they object to?
    – user10893
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 4:05
  • 1
    I was the downvoter. I agree with @Jon Purdy that there's nothing inherently "informal" or incorrect about saying "Are you staff?". To me, the variant "Are you on staff?" applies only when you're asking whether someone is working as a temporary contractor or permanent employee. The shorter version is for asking if they work wherever you are (e.g. - shop sales assistant), or just happen to be there (e.g. - customer). Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 16:55

Just staff without the article is the correct form:

Are you staff?
Everyone in a blue shirt is staff. Everyone else is a guest.

It's not informal.

I am staff.
I'm a staff member.
I'm an ABC staff member.
I'm serving as staff.
I'm serving as a staff member.

A related use is on staff, used in slightly different contexts. I find that it most often comes up at a workplace staffed by paid employees:

How many [people] are on staff here?
We have twenty [people] on staff. = We have twenty staff members.

Oh, are you on staff now?
Yes, I'm on staff, as of last week.

The staff refers to the whole group of people that are on staff:

The staff consists of twenty-one people.
The guests threw their cocktails at the staff.

The following are incorrect, or probably not what you mean:

I'm a staff. = I'm a long stick for walking or casting spells.
I'm an ABC staff. = I'm a long stick, somehow associated with ABC.

But there are some times you must infer from context:

The theatre director fired the cast from his staff.
The powerful wizard cast fire from his staff.

  • 2
    I disagree about formality. To me "Are you staff" is definitely informal if to one person, though oddly I wouldn't find it informal if it was plural (addressed to more than one person). I think this is because in the plural it can be the ordinary non-count noun "staff"; but this has no singular (except "member of staff"), so in the singular "staff" has to have the different meaning of a quasi-adjective, which I find informal.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 16:32
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    I completely agree with this. I also would not say that "Are you staff" is informal or colloquial.
    – Marcin
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 16:57
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    I would add that "Are you the staff?" is asking whether the addressee is the whole of the staff.
    – Marcin
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 16:57

I would say "Do you work here?" if you want to ask if they are a member of the current organization or if you're asking if they work somewhere else "Do you work at [the] ABC?" Where "the" can be optional.

  • 2
    +1 Much clearer. "Are you a staff?" is incorrect. "Are you staff?" is correct, but doesn't sound at all natural. "Are you a member of staff?" is better, but "Do you work here?" is much easier to understand.
    – Hugo
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 9:12
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    +1 But the [the] is not optional, but rather depends on whether the organisation has the as part of the title. Do you work for BBC (The British Broadcasting corp) is wrong. Its Do you work for the BBC. Whereas HMV (A record shop standing for His Masters Voice) would be Do you work for HMV. Do you work for the HMV is wrong.
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 9:42
  • Also I wonder whether Are you staff is an American expression. While this is certainly understood in the UK, it personally makes me flinch. I can't give a good reason why though. I would certainly prefer someone asking if I work here, or if I was a member of staff.
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 9:55
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    @Tom I think "Are you staff?" sounds a bit off to British ears because it's reminiscent of the days when "staff" meant "housekeeping staff". Ergo, "Are you staff?" has overtones of "Are you one of the plebs who does my dusting?"
    – calum_b
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 14:33
  • @Tom I'm not sure it doesn't sound British, but it does sound a bit ruder to my ears than "Are you a member of staff?" I'd almost expect "Are you staff?" to be used immediately before someone complained about something! Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 14:33

Are you staff? Are you ABC staff? Are you a member of ABC staff?

These are the options I would use.

The staff in this case is a collective noun and this is why you would not say Are you an ABC staff or Are you the ABC staff. It's not countable specific to you.


A: “Are you staff?” B: “Are you a staff member?”

Even if A is correct grammatically, it doesn't ring too well with the ear, and the recipient might say “Sorry, what was that?” and you will have to be specific with insertion of B; so to eliminate confusion to begin with B is good.

C: “Do you know where I could locate a staff member?”

Another way is to not assume anything and ask C; if they are staff they will say “I am a staff member.”

Staff member is just what I use, in speech it would be likely “member of staff“; the length of the phrase gives that person time to think a response and to recognise what you are saying.

D: “Excuse me! Are you staff?”

You may by saying D, you might get away with A inside D; you are trying to be not too strange in speech and fluid in conversation.

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