You are NOT a staff!

Posted by on August 20th, 2016 | 7 responses | countable uncountable, EAP, IELTS, speaking, staf, vocabulary, writing

I am a staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Although you will occasionally find an example of staff as a countable noun, it is extremely rare.
Used as an uncountable noun, staff refers to people who work for a particular organisation:

  • Staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs receive a competitive salary.

Used as a countable noun, a staff is a kind of stick with certain features and functions:

  • often very long – longer than its user is tall
  • usually made of wood
  • usually quite ornate, possibly hand-crafted
  • used by someone with special powers, for example a wizard
  • often used in specialised fighting, like kung fu
  • otherwise used to assist in walking (elderly people, etc)

For example:

  • He used his staff to scare away evil spirits and then used it to turn my horse into a brand new Ferrari. I noticed the staff also helped him to walk!

In the context of your writing one of these meanings, staff countable / staff uncountable, will probably be more obvious than the other. However, if you want a high score in IELTS for vocabulary, I suggest you choose the most appropriate meaning!
If you really must use a countable noun, you can do this:

  • I am a member of staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

7 responses to “You are NOT a staff!”

  1. could i say: i am a staff member at the Ministry of Religious Affairs?

  2. […] melalui You are NOT a staff! — EAPguru […]

  3. Thia says:

    Omg! Got this wrong all the time! Thanks, Steve.

  4. Peter says:

    Hi Steve, what about “I am on the staff of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.”?

    • pakguru says:

      Hey Peter! OK, so what do we call this? ‘Staff’ as a collective noun? We’re talking about a group of people, right? Ya that looks good. We can also say that a university department has a lot of qualified people on its staff. But what I see in student writing all the time is ‘a staff’ (= one of many), which is not elegant! Ya maybe I need to update this post! 😉

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