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Data is a Collective Noun, Thus Singular! ;-)

Photo by Harri Kuokkanen on Unsplash

From (emphasis mine):

“Data is often treated as a plural noun in writing related to science, mathematics, finance, and computing. Elsewhere, most English speakers treat it as a singular mass noun. This convention is well established and widely followed in both edited and unedited writing. Keep in mind, though, that some people consider the singular ‘data’ incorrect. This view is based on a misunderstanding of how English develops, but those who hold it tend to feel strongly about it, so we might approach ‘data’ with caution in writing for school or work.
The reason some people believe the singular ‘data’ to be incorrect is that ‘data’ is a plural word in Latin, its singular being datum, meaning a thing given. The problem with this view is that ‘data’ is an English word when English speakers use it, and we’re not required to continue following Latin rules with words that have been in English for centuries. Some Latin forms are preserved by convention, but the plural ‘data’ is not one of them, and those who wish to make it conventional are fighting for a lost cause.”

Looking through the comments which were left for this entry at Grammarist, I find that there are several arguments pro and con.

From the sublime:

“Today’s sunlight are too bright, and my homework are killing me. I think people need to remember what multiplicable singularities are.”


“’Data’, like ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’ is an uncountable noun. For those who stand in opposition to treating ‘data’ as an uncountable noun (called here a ‘singular mass noun’), consider that this means you prefer to hear ‘not many data’ and ‘a few data’ over ‘not much data’ and ‘a little data’… in which case you may not be surprised to hear that you have not many common sense.”

To the ridiculous:

“There are some who argue that because people tend not to use the singular ‘datum’ that we can then use the plural ‘data’ as singular. Odd argument.”

It is my contention that ‘data’ is a collective noun like ‘food’, ‘stuff’ or ‘class.’ Collective nouns represent a collection of members, and, though denoting more than one thing, object, or person, always take the singular form of an associated verb.

· “The food is hot,” not “The food are hot.”

· “The group is leaving,” not “The group are leaving.”

· “The data was analyzed,” not “The data were analyzed.”

You’re welcome!