Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is 'data' singular or plural?

In Collins Cobuild Dictionary, it tells us:

You can refer to information as data, especially when it is in the form of facts or statistics that you can analyse. In American English, data is usually a plural noun. In technical or formal British English, data is sometimes a plural noun, but at other times, it is an uncount noun.

On (belongs to Oxford Dictionaries), the answer is (Frequently Asked Questions,

Strictly speaking, data is the plural of datum, and should be used with a plural verb (like facts). However, there has been a growing tendency to use it as an equivalent to the uncountable noun information, followed by a singular verb. This is now regarded as generally acceptable in American use, and in the context of information technology. The traditional usage is still preferable, at least in Britain, but it may soon become a lost cause.

In the Merriam-webster Online Dictionary (, the usage is

Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it was originally the plural. It occurs in two constructions: as a plural noun (like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifiers (as these, many, a few) but not cardinal numbers, and serving as a referent for plural pronouns (as they, them); and as an abstract mass noun (like information), taking a singular verb and singular modifiers (as this, much, little), and being referred to by a singular pronoun (it). Both constructions are standard. The plural construction is more common in print, evidently because the house style of several publishers mandates it.

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