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I know that "staff" is a singular collective noun. One of my clients is using the sentence, "All staff are responsible for exercising good judgment." I have edited this as incorrect because to me it needs to be "staff members" to be plural. Otherwise, it would read like, "All committee are responsible for exercising good judgment." Am I correct that using "all committee" this way is incorrect?

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  • @KillingTime: We would use notional agreement: All of the staff is responsible. Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 17:10
  • Before discussing the grammar, determine what meaning is to be conveyed. Is this about ndividuala Being ndividually responsible, or about collective responsibility? If the former, then you don't mean to refer to a staff (a body of people) but rather members of staff. So "All members of staff are..." or "Each/Every member of staff is..." Certainly not "all staff" -- there is no meaning that that word-sequence might express. It's like "all team" or "all department" or "all branch".
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 17:30
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    @Rosie F I can't agree: arguing from analogy doesn't work here. 'Staff' has varied usages (see Stuart's answer: Merriam-Webster also lets you use staff as a plural noun meaning members of staff [e.g. "employs three full-time staff"]). Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 18:01

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Staff can be singular or plural. In the collective sense of the body of people working for an organisation, it is a singular collective noun (although there is some variation in how people handle singular collective nouns, that isn't what the question is about).

But Merriam-Webster also lets you use staff as a plural noun meaning members of staff (e.g. "employs three full-time staff"), so "all staff" could be a plural expression. It would be odd to use staff in this sense in the singular to mean a single person, but using it for more than one employee is fine. In such a case it will take a plural verb. Hence: "All staff are responsible for exercising good judgment."

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  • Yes, I'd not be happy with 'employs one full-time staff'. This is different from say quasi-count 'police', where 'three police were present' is awful but '3 000 police were present' has gained acceptability. // I'd focus on different usages rather than give a broad 'Staff can be singular or plural'. And I'd be more precise: 'In the usual collective sense of the body of people working for an organisation, staff is a singular-form (though the plural staffs is also available here) collective noun taking a singular verb form among those who stick to formal agreement, ... Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 19:31
  • but often given notional agreement especially in the UK. But Merriam-Webster also lets you use staff as a singular-form (but inherently plural and taking plural agreement) noun meaning members of staff (e.g. "employs three full-time staff [who work from home]").' Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 19:31

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