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Yes, both are Latin-based plurals, and usually when a Latin-based word has -a in the plural, it will take -um in the singlar. Therefore, data/datum and media/medium. However, whereas Latin was a morphologically based language, English is most definitely not or only slightly influenced by morphology, with the end result that our grammar really doesn't understand how to use these words and so makes them decline like English words.

Basically, all of our plurals end in -s, anything without that -s must be in singular so we automatically assume they're singular. This is a natural process of borrowing words and then making them your own. All languages do it (German=downloaden, Russian=komp'uter, Czech=emailovy...even without having studied these words, I'm betting you can understand what each of these words mean), and so I wouldn't worry about using the words datum or medium too much. Just say it however it sounds natural to you. Plus, no one would ever say datum as far as I know. Even in really high academic circles I've maybe heard that word once or twice throughout my life. And medium has lots of different meanings, but as the singular to media, never heard that one.

AnswerSorry, I misread your question. Media can take either singular or plural and as far as I know, both are completely acceptable. Data however has evolved to the point where it is practically an English word, meaning it is a collective singular=singular verbs. "The data says that monkeys are cool." "The data say that monkeys are cool," even though technically correct, sounds so wrong to me that I would advise you to never say or write it. CommentMedia and data are nearly always treated as singular in English. [This is totally wrong in regard to media. Google: "the media continue to", 291,000 finds; "the media continues to", 382,000. On the basis of this, media is apparently more often treated as singular (which is all I wanted to know), but hardly "nearly always" so.] To treat them as plural is precious and rather like waving a little flag inscribed, 'Hey! I studied Latin.' I'd suggest that when writing you give priority to expressing yourself clearly and not to sending irrelvant and distracting messages about yourself. Rebuttal to commentNearly always? The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage lists both nouns as plural, although Lewis Jordan, the editor who revised the style guide, warns against using "media" in "the news sense."

The American Heritage Dictionary states "data" may accept either a singular or plural verb. It lists "media" as the plural of "medium," although the usage note at "medium" acknowledges that some people regard "the media" as a collective noun taking a singular verb. (Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal would agree with that. See my comment in the discussion.)

Either way, I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that the subject nouns are "nearly always treated as singular in English," although that may be the trend.

Footnote:I shall make an appointment with my medium to see if she can find any data on the mattum, er.. matter.

Answer:

A number of plurals, mostly derived from Latin, do not end in -s. Nevertheless, they are plural and should be treated as such. Words such as criteria, phenomena, memoranda, and media are plural. Their singular forms are criterion, phenomenon, memorandum, and medium.

2011-02-16 13:08:10
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Q: Do the nouns 'media' and 'data' take singular or plural verbs?
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