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Staff

Aim:
Many Hong Kong students use the word 'staff' wrongly, for example using 'staffs' to refer to a number of workers and 'staff' to refer to one worker. This is wrong, and this page explains why, and then provides an exercise for you to practise how to use 'staff' correctly.

Explanation:
'Staff' is a description of a group of people. It is similar to 'team'. Sometimes a staff and a team are thought of as a single group of people (e.g. 'The staff were very kind'), and sometimes as a collection of individual people (Most of the staff were from Hong Kong).

A single member of a team is 'a member of the team'. In the same way, a single member of the staff is called 'a member of staff '.

Word Part of Speech Example
staff noun, plural (a group of workers) - We have seven hundred staff.
- A number of staff have asked for leave.
- Three-quarters of our staff are graduates.
- None of the staff have volunteered.
staff noun (uncountable, collective) - The staff were very good.
a member of staff noun phrase (one worker) - She has been a member of staff for 20 years.
- Seven members of staff are on sick-leave today.
- Some members of staff are late.
to staff verb - How are we going to staff the new office?
staffing noun (uncountable) - The Government has revised its staffing requirement to eighty.
staffed verb (usually passive voice) - They are staffed by volunteers.
- The Centre is staffed by highly trained teachers.
-staffed adverb (e.g. well-staffed, over-staffed, under-staffed) - The ship is well-staffed, with one crew member for every three passengers.
a staffer noun (one worker, American English) - The studio is run by technical staffers.

Staffs:
Third-person singular verb
Due to the fact that 'staff' can be a verb, the third-person singular present tense form is 'staffs'; e.g. He staffs his company only with people from his church.' However, this use is uncommon.

Plural noun
'Staffs' is sometimes used to mean the staff from a number of organisations; e.g. 'the U.S. had to reduce its embassy and consulate staffs in Cuba.' (The staff from the embassy are one staff, and the staff from the consulate are a second group of staff, so that makes two staffs.) However, using 'staff' is also acceptable here.

'Staffs' sometimes occurs where the grammar of an associated part of a sentence requires a plural; e.g. 'one of the largest news staffs in America' ('one of the' should be followed by a plural, and this is a comparison of staffs in a number of news organisations).

'Staffs' can also refer to other meanings of the word staff, e.g. flag staffs (the poles from which flags hang), or shepherds' staffs (wooden poles that shepherds use when herding sheep).

Exercise:

Instructions: Choose the correct option from the drop-down boxes:

  1. We are under  , so we need to recruit more workers.

     

    Answer:
    We are under-staffed, so we need to recruit more workers.

    Explanation:
    'Under-staffed' means that there are not enough staff. Adverbs include well-staffed, poorly staffed, and over-staffed.

  2. 'Last in, first out' means that the who was employed most recently is the first to be made redundant if staff numbers are cut.

     

    Answer:
    'Last in, first out' means that the member of staff who was employed most recently is the first to be made redundant if staff numbers are cut.

    Explanation:
    There can only be one 'first' or 'last' person, so this word must refer to a single person, and therefore the answer is a 'member of staff '..

  3. Two-thirds of the in the Administration Building have suffered from illness in the last six months.

     

    Answer:
    Two-thirds of the staff in the Administration Building have suffered from illness in the last six months.

    Explanation:
    In this question, 'staff ' is a plural noun. It is also possible to write 'Two-thirds of the members of staff...'.

  4. The Human Resources Department are responsible for issues.

     

    Answer:
    The Human Resources Department are responsible for staffing issues.

    Explanation:
    'Staffing' is a noun that refers to the business function of employing staff. 'Staff issues' is more general. The word 'staffing' collocates with 'requirement(s)', 'issues' and 'matters', for example, "I like working in Human Resources because dealing with staffing matters allows me to help people with their problems."

  5. They are by cheap part-time workers, so their quality of service is not very satisfactory.

     

    Answer:
    They are staffed by cheap part-time workers, so their quality of service is not very satisfactory.

    Explanation:
    This is a passive-voice verb, because it has 'by' and a group of people after it.

  6. We must the company with creative and enthusiastic go-getters.

     

    Answer:
    We must staff the company with creative and enthusiastic go-getters.

    Explanation:
    This is a verb, because after 'must' you should use an infinitive verb. A 'go-getter' is a person who ignores any difficulties and independently and assertively completes his or her tasks, i.e. a person who goes and gets what he or she wants. .

  7. Correct the mistakes in the following sentences:



  8.  

    Answer:
    'A few staff did not complete the course.' or 'A few members of staff did not complete the course.'

    Explanation:
    'Staff ' should be a plural noun in this sentence, and therefore should not have an 's' at the end.


  9.  

    Answer:
    Ten members of staff were satisfied or highly satisfied with the course.

    Explanation:
    'Ten' is a plural number, so 'members' should have an 's' at the end..


  10.  

    Answer:
    Sixty percent of the staff were highly satisfied with the course. (No 's' on 'percent'.)

    Explanation:
    'Percent' never has an 's' on the end, because 'cent' means hundred and 'per cent' means 'in every hundred'..



  11.  

    Answer:
    'The staff s opinions were divided, so no agreement was reached.' or 'Staff opinion was divided, so no agreement was reached.'

    Explanation:
    The opinions belonged to the staff, so use a possessive apostrophe-s: 'staff ’s', or write about 'staff opinion' in general

Your total score is:

 

Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012