"Staff" - Singular / Plural?

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Anonymous:
The following staff (is/are) in possession of blah blah blah...

Joe Blow
Jane Doe
Phil D. Bucket
.
.
.
My suggestion was to say "The following staff MEMBERS are in possession...", but the questioner is insistant. Help?

Thanks,
Wayne
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the Omrud:
(Email Removed) had it:
[nq:1]The following staff (is/are) in possession of blah blah blah... Joe Blow Jane Doe Phil D. Bucket . . . My suggestion was to say "The following staff MEMBERS are in possession...", but the questioner is insistant. Help?[/nq]
If it has to be like this then it's "are".
But "are in possession of ..." is a ghastly and hideous construction. What's wrong with the simple verb "have"?
"The following staff have a fire extinguisher ..." if you have to go with the bare "staff". Me, I would say:
"The following people have fire extinguishers ..."

David
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Wayne:
I agree - replace "staff (is/are) in possesion" of with "people have". But to use "the following staff have" begs the question "staff have" or "staff has." I take it the correct choice is "staff have"?

Thanks again!
Wayne
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Weatherlawyer:
[nq:2]The following staff (is/are) in possession of blah blah blah... Joe Blow Jane Doe Phil D. Bucket[/nq]
[nq:1]If it has to be like this then it's "are".[/nq]
The use of the term "staff" unqualified is wrong. Or rather, not the most grammatically correct. One might drop the term entirely or use the word "members" either before or after the word.
If one were talking about staff as an unit one might refer to it as singular. However it wouldn't go amiss to refer to it in the plural either. It's one of those awkward buggers.
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the Omrud:
Wayne (Email Removed) had it:
[nq:1]I agree - replace "staff (is/are) in possesion" of with "people have". But to use "the following staff have" begs the question "staff have" or "staff has." I take it the correct choice is "staff have"?[/nq]
Yes. Of course, it doesn't really "beg the question" but that's a whole nother discussion.
[nq:1]Thanks again![/nq]
You're welcome again.

David
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Adrian Bailey:
[nq:2]The following staff (is/are) in possession of blah blah blah... ... MEMBERS are in possession...", but the questioner is insistant. Help?[/nq]
[nq:1]If it has to be like this then it's "are". But "are in possession of ..." is a ghastly and ... if you have to go with the bare "staff". Me, I would say: "The following people have fire extinguishers ..."[/nq]
Most companies these days seem to prefer the word "colleagues"...

Adrian
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Wayne :
I had no idea that I'd been using "beg the question" incorrectly all this time. Your comment prodded me do some research, and now I know! Live and learn. Thanks for the education!
Wayne
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the Omrud:
> had it:
[nq:1]I had no idea that I'd been using "beg the question" incorrectly all this time. Your comment prodded me do some research, and now I know! Live and learn. Thanks for the education![/nq]
Since nearly everybody uses it wrongly, the wrong version is now probably correct. But this is an English newsgroup, so we point it out from time to time.

David
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Daniel James:
[nq:1]My suggestion was to say "The following staff MEMBERS are in possession...", but the questioner is insistant. Help?[/nq]
You're right. The whole sentence reads SO much more naturally if you write "the following staff members" or (better still) "the following members of staff" even were it not for the is/are question I should advise you to use one of those forms.
If you are stuck with the "the following staff" construction there isn't really an idiomatically correct answer to the is/are question because the whole sentence is unidiomatic anyway: thoughtful educated speakers of English just would not say that.
The problem is that "staff" is a word that can be singular or plural, depending on context. The best clue you are going to get is to look at other, similarly constructed sentences, using words of less ambiguous plurality and see which verb fits best there.
For example:
"The following first aid officers ARE in possession of medical kits."

(Note that "medical kits" is plural here. It wouldn't be correct to write "... are in possession of a medical kit" as the sentence stands.)

The "following keyholders ARE in posession of the master key to the building."
(Note that here the master key CAN be singular, as we're actually talking about several different keys any/all of which can be described as "the" master key.)
The following committee IS responsible for setting company policy on document security.
Here the committee is acting as one body, not as a group of individuals so "is" can be appropriate.
I think it's pretty clear from these examples that in your example "the following staff are ..." is the more correct form.

Note, though, that in British English we often we refer to organizations in the plural in contexts in which they would be regarded as singluar in American English:
"The BBC are showing a drama-documentary on the life of the actor and comedian Kenneth Williams this evening."

.. that "are" would be an "is" in AmE.
So in AmE one might write (I think):
"Our staff is working hard to clear the backlog of orders."

where in BrE it would more naturally be:
"Our staff are working hard to clear the backlog of orders."

As I understand it (and perhaps a natural AmE speaker will clarify this) that distinction applies only where the whole of the staff is being discussed, so when discussing "the following (members of) staff" the word would be treated as plural an both BrE and AmE.
Cheers,
Daniel.
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