You are not a staff!

I am a staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Staff is a complicated word in English. This post demonstrates the various uses of staff, and indicates which uses are best for IELTS and also which uses are best avoided.

Staff - singular countable noun

If you use staff as a singular countable noun, then you are probably not referring to someone who is a worker.

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

not a staff
  • 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)
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!

Staffs - plural countable with 's'

Used as a plural countable noun with 's', staffs means more than one staff (= more than one wooden stick!):

Our company manufactures staffs for wizards.

You are extremely unlikely to need this meaning in the IELTS test!

Staff - plural countable without 's'

Used as a plural countable noun without 's', staff refers to people who work for a particular organisation, or within a particular department:

  • Staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs receive a competitive salary.
  • Our trained pool staff are always present.

Notice the subject verb/agreement:

  • staff..receive (not receives)
  • staff..are present (not is present)

In the context of IELTS writing, you will probably be talking about people working for a particular company or organisation, and so you will probably never need to write 'a staff' or 'staffs'.

Staff - uncountable

This is extremely uncommon. It refers to a component of a company or organisation, just as you might refer to other components: accommodation, infrastructure, production, shipping, etc.

  • The staff is spread across four campuses.
  • all workers as a single group or 'component'
  • The financial services staff mainly handles payment postings.
  • all workers belonging to a sub-category (financial services) of a larger group or component (all workers)

Notice the subject verb/agreement:

  • the (not are)
  • the staff..handles (not handle)

Again, this use of staff (uncountable) is extremely rare and I suggest not using it in IELTS.

In IELTS speaking and writing use staff plural countable without 's':

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

If you really must use a plural countable noun with 's', you can do this:

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