“These data are …” or “This data is …”?

Singular or plural?

16 Jan 2016
(comments: 4)
Lots of data

Definition of “data”: factual information, as measurements or statistics, used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Pronunciation: [deɪtə], [dætə], or [dɑːtə]

Especially in writing, the question arises whether to treat "data" as a plural noun or as an uncountable mass noun (just like e.g. “information”, “money”, and “research”). Should one write: “These data are ...”? Or instead: “This data is …”?

In theory, and consistent with the rules of Latin grammar and traditional English, data is a plural noun (e.g. “These data are confusing”). However, data is today commonly treated as an uncountable mass noun, particularly in everyday usage (e.g. “This data is confusing”).

Although both versions are correct, take into account that even native English speakers might not know this. In a spoken context, such as a presentation, it is therefore advisable to use data as an uncountable noun (“This data is …”), in scientific texts one should rather prefer the use of data as a plural.

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Comment by JoeSmarterThanYou |

Just as saying "fishes" instead of "fish" comes of annoying to 99% of the population, saying "the data are" instead of "the data is" annoys 99% of the population. Those that think that, as scientists, they are our betters, are actually just condescending contrarians.

You would never say the, "the information are", "the collection are", etc. I suppose if one use the word "datum" as the singular of "data" then I can excuse one's arrogance. But when I hear scientists stalk about data, they NEVER use datum as the singular.

Thus they are incorrect and just arrogant contrarian a-holes.

Comment by banana |


Comment by Randy |

If you think "these datums" sounds right, then use "these data," otherwise use "this data."

Comment by Shalal |

Very helpful. Thank you!

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