Quick Tips: Staff has or Staff have grammar

Staff has or staff havegrammar confuses most native and non-native English speakers. In most instances, people deem it wise to avoid using the phrase altogether. We will begin with the fundamentals before delving deeper into the topic.

“Staff has” or “Staff have” Grammar

The most-used phrase on the web is “All staff have.” But “Staff” is a collective noun, like “town,” which stands for many people (in theory) but is used as a singular word in grammar. So, “our staff has successfully completed the project” is the right answer.

Variations of Staff

The term “staff” also refers to a stick and is a synonym for the musical term “stave.”

“Staffs” is the plural for more than one stick, but “staves” is the more usual plural in musical notation.

The term staff is a collective noun. It stands for a group. Other collective noun examples are board, committee, firm, organization, department, and faculty.

The trick with these words is to use the singular form of the verb when the group is operating in harmony.

Is “Staff” Singular or Plural?

Staff is a “collective noun” like shoal, flock or herd. The point is, in normal situations, staff is a singular. It gets a bit confusing because there is also a verb “to staff” which means to allocate people to an organization. So you might “staff” a restaurant.


[Right] The marketing staff is unavailable after 5 p.m. (This is correct as we are referring to the entire crew; no one is available.)

[Wrong] The staff is debating the new parking policy. (This is false because the group is not functioning as a unit.)

If the members of the group are operating independently, the verb must be in the plural form.

Which is Grammatically Correct: “Staff” or “Staffs”?

If you are referring to a group of people within an organization, the right term is staff.

However, staffs can be used as a third-person singular verb implying to operate or work.

Example: She staffs the restaurant every weekend.

Grammar Tip: “Staff is” or “Staff are”?

‘Staff’ is a collective noun that requires a singular verb, i.e., ‘staff is’.

This seems strange because we are discussing more than one person; hence, most people use a plural verb, such as staff are.

Many individuals educated in classical grammar perceive ‘staff are’ to be incorrect. Nevertheless, according to current grammarians, collective nouns can take either a singular or plural verb, depending on the context.

Therefore, you treat a collective noun as singular if related to a single entity. And treat a collective noun as plural if it refers to multiple individuals.

For instance:

  • The family (as a unit) disapproves unanimously.
  • The staff (several individuals) are exchanging gifts.

Frequently, this issue can be circumvented by modifying the word. For example, you may substitute employees or our people for staff.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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