Translation:The staff works in the White House.
The English is translation is wrong. It should be 'The staff work in the White House' (unless the wizard's stick has a job there)
I translated it to "works," that's how I would say it, at least here in Florida... :-) I guess both should be accepted, if it's a dialect issue. Basically "staff" is singular and should have an S added to the verb. This is my thinking anyway.
In Australia, 'staff' rarely refers to one person. That'd be a 'member of staff' or a 'staff member.'
In America, collective nouns are often treated as singular - "my family is at home today, watching as our team wins the game," is proper American English, and I think Canadian too? After all, there's ONE family and ONE team, however many members they may have. But this IS a case where it's going to be interpreted very differently in different dialects of English!
Or unless you follow (for example) Wikipedia's style guidelines, which mandate U.S. English when discussing U.S. subjects (such as the White House).
I am here to learn Dutch, not to have my English English picked apart. If I want to learn to speak and write better English, then I shall follow an English language course. In the meantime, I have little enthusiasm for learning some or other dialect (formal or otherwise) of American English.
I do not disagree with what you have written. However, both many of the forum discussions focus on the minutiae of different English dialects, many commenters not recognising that there are dozens of entirely valid forms of the English-language; and plenty of the comments by Moderators split hairs about technical matters of English rather than accepting a wide variation in English usage, whereas I should rather the focus were restricted to Dutch usage (and Flemish variations, as I spend more time in Belgium than in the Netherlands).
The English language spoken and written by people of Asian heritage living in, say Leicester, is not the same as the English language spoken and written by white people who live in Sunderland or Newcastle; the English language spoken and written by people of African heritage in Jamaica is not the same as that spoken and written by people of African heritage who live in Harlem, New York. I am keen to speak and write as well as I am able the English language appropriate to the environment in which I find myself. Most of the time, I speak and write quite formally, and find the English presented on this website to be rather informal for my taste, obviously too 'American', and it sometimes sounds a little infantile. However, as I wrote above, my purpose here is to learn to speak and write in Dutch. The discussion about the use, and the 'correct' use, of the term 'staff', epitomised the focus on English language usage, instead of accepting that there are differences in English language usage. For what it's worth, which is not much, I have noticed a progression over the past forty years from using the word 'staff' as a singular noun, to using it as though it were plural, so 'the staff works ...' has changed to 'the staff work...'. In one respect, I do not care if this latter usage is 'correct', because it is what people now often say and write. That is how language is and develops. There is another sentence in this Duolingo section: "The staff reads the newspaper." To my ear this sounds like it means 'The entire staff is reading a single newspaper', whereas I suspect that what may be being communicated (in my language) is 'Staff members read (their) newspapers'. As others have commented elsewhere, when 'the staff' is acting as one, then it is more comfortable to use the singular, whereas when 'the staff' are engaged in individual or disparate activities, then they may be seen as 'staff members' and tend to be treated as plural. The same applies to 'family' and 'family members'. Maybe the same discussion could be had about Dutch word usage, which I should find considerably more useful (and less irritating).
As indicated in the Duolingo exercises, Dutch behaves like American English in this regard: these group nouns like "staff" and "family" and "government", are singular nouns, so they take verbs that agree with singular subjects. No doubt there are exceptions, just as there are in American English (for example, we say "The police are coming" -- in Dutch, on the other hand, "De politie komt" (singular)).
You can infer from "werkt" that personeel is singular. In English, however, "the staff" almost always refers to several persons and so when referring to one person it would be more usual to elaborate and say something like "the member of staff", "the staff member" or even "the worker" or "the employee".
The Dutch sentence is referring to the staff, not to a single staff member. For collective nouns, singular is normally (always?) used in Dutch, in English it depends on the dialect:
- de brandweer blust de brand = the fire brigade put/puts out the fire
- de klas kreeg onverwacht een proefwerk = the class was/were given an unexpected test (group of students)
If staff is plural then the English should be "The staff work in...". Here it says "The staff works in..." thus supporting the view that staff - as used here - is singular?
It's a collective noun, it depends on the variety of the language (e.g. UK or US English) whether it is considered plural or singular, see comments above by Warmfoothills.
Thank you, so it's used in some English-speaking countries (chiefly the USA) but incorrect or uncommon in UK, NZ, Oz.
I think you'll find the singular is more common than the plural in Aus English. Usually, we're closer to the Brits, but not in this one...
But it depends on context too. If the collective is acting as one, then it's singular. If the collective is acting as individuals, then you use the plural.
The staff was about to mutiny.
The staff were going their separate ways.
Just because the staff refers to several persons does not make it a plural noun. Although I - a native speaker - would always regard collective nouns as singular (e.g. "Family X is coming to dinner."), there are different views on this matter. Cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_noun
All of the above discussion about collective nouns might have been confusing. "Staff" is a collection of individual employees. To say that the staff is working means that the members of the group are all working (or, at least, enough of them are working on behalf of the group to consider the result the group's work). "Staff" in English (UK or US or anywhere else) will never refer to a single person.