Using the word “staff” to refer to a stick causes some confusion when you look at the plural form. It doesn’t seem to follow the exact rules that you’d expect. Thankfully, this article will look at what the correct plural form of “staff” is and how to use it.
Staffs Or Staves: What Is The Plural Of Staff?
“Staffs” and “staves” are both the plural form of “staff.” We can use either one, though “staffs” is much more common because it sticks to the same spelling and follows typical pluralization rules by adding an “S” letter to the end.
There is also a lot of confusion when you look at “staff” as a word to talk about a body of employees. In this case, “staff” is uncountable, and the plural remains the same as the singular. However, we’ll talk more about that later.
What Does “Staff” Mean?
“Staff” means a stick, most commonly used by shepherds in the real world or magicians and sorcerers in fantasy worlds. Staffs are often long pieces, mostly made of wood, and sometimes have a loop at the end of them (or a gem in the case of magicians).
The definition of “staff,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “a long, strong stick held in the hand that is used as a support when walking, as a weapon, or as a symbol of authority.”
There are many instances where we’d come across staffs, so it helps to know what you’re looking for:
- A walking stick
- A herding stick
- A caning stick
These are the most common things you’ll come across that are all “staffs.”
What Does “Stave” Mean?
“Stave” is a variant spelling of “staff” but means the same thing. It’s pronounced with a harder “A” sound and is used in more old-fashioned contexts. Otherwise, it means a stick that we use to do things with.
The definition of “stave,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “a staff.”
It’s unlikely that you’ll come across this spelling variation, but it’s just as correct as using “staffs.” It’s up to you which spelling you prefer to use.
What Is The Difference Between “Staff” And “Stave”?
There is no difference between “staff” or “stave” when you’re talking about a stick. However, “staff” can also mean “body of employees,” while “stave” cannot mean the same thing. That’s the only difference between the two.
In the context of this article, you can use “staff” and “stave” interchangeably. Most native speakers aren’t familiar with the spelling “stave” and stand to stick with “staff” when they want to use it in this way.
Is “Staffs” Or “Staves” Used The Most?
We can show you how common “staffs” is compared to “staves” by looking at some statistics. Usually, more popular words are much more prevalent in historical recordings, and we have the information to back this up.
According to Google, “Staffs” is mentioned 21,400 times on The New York Times website, while “Staves” is mentioned 2,300 times.
Clearly, “staffs” is the more useful of the two, but that’s only with the information from The New York Times website.
We can also look at this graph to take it one step further. Here, “staffs” is still the more popular of the words, though the difference between the two is much less apparent. From 1940 to 1980, “staffs” was vastly more popular, but it’s died off since then.
The reason there isn’t much difference today between the two words is that very few people use either “staffs” or “staves.” In modern English, we typically call them “sticks” or “canes” and avoid using more archaic terms like “staffs.”
Are “Staffs” And “Staves” Used Differently In American English And British English?
There doesn’t appear to be much difference between the two words in English as a whole. However, we can split English into American and British rules, and sometimes that shows us when words are used more locally.
This graph shows American English usage, and “staffs” and “staves” are fairly equal. Again, “staffs” used to be much more popular than it is today, but the two words are about as popular as each other.
This graph shows British English usage, and you’ll notice a few similarities between them. “Staffs” is slightly more popular, but neither word is used much today. Also, historically, “staves” are not popular in British English, meaning that it is an American English word.
There are no key differences between “staffs” and “staves” with American English and British English. However, “staves” is an American English word that’s rarely used in British English.
Examples Of How To Use “Staffs” In A Sentence
We can share some examples with you to help you understand when we might use the plural form of “staff.”
“Staffs” refers to multiple sticks or canes that we have in our possession.
- I have many staffs for my sheep herd, though I only use my trusted one!
- She has too many staffs in her closet; I don’t know what they’re for.
- We would like to invest in some of your finest wooden staffs, please.
- Have you got any wooden staffs for sale?
- I’m a shepherd and use many staffs.
- This wizard has too many staffs to choose from.
Examples Of How To Use “Staves” In A Sentence
“Staves” is used in much the same way as “staffs;” however, it’s much more common in American English.
- Do you have any special staves I can borrow?
- I have a few staves that might work in this situation.
- Which of these staves is your favorite?
- Where can I find new staves for my flock?
- This is one of my many magical staves.
- I have too many staves. You can take one if you’d like.
Is “Staff” Countable Or Uncountable?
“Staff” is countable when we’re talking about the wooden stick we can use. “Staff” is uncountable when we’re talking about a group of employees in a workforce.
- This is my wooden staff.
- I have three wooden staffs.
We can add an “S” when we’re talking about the plural form in this case.
- I have plenty of staff.
- This is my staff.
We keep “staff” whether we’re speaking in singular or plural if we’re referring to a body of employees in a workplace.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.