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Which is correct in the following example?

"The following staff are/is (?) absent today:

John Doe Jane Doe Bob Doe"

marked as duplicate by Cascabel, Laurel, jimm101, Hellion, aparente001 Mar 3 at 4:42

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Ah, the perpetual question about group nouns and verb agreement. Which in this case is actually a question about (assumed) words.

Here is an interesting discussion, including differences between British English and American usage: https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/09/05/agreement-over-collective-nouns/

My answer (from an American English journalist, copy editor and technical writer):

"Staff" is a singular collective noun, so strictly speaking, you would write, "the staff is a group of talented people" or "The staff was broken by Gandalf" (kidding!)


The sentence is referring to specific staff members -- individuals -- who are to be listed. A word ("members") is being left out of the sentence, and it clearly refers to more than one thing. In this case, it is acceptable to use the plural verb form:

"The following staff are absent today: Bob, June, Eric, Mary...."

To be absolutely clear, add the omitted word, or use a plural word instead of just "staff":

-- employees

-- staff members

-- individuals

-- people

-- colleagues

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