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Home arrow Answers to questions arrow 'That' or 'those' data
'That' or 'those' data PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Is it correct to refer to plural data as those data or that data ? [An acquaintance] of one of my colleagues states that those data is the correct reference I disagree. What is your take on this?

Oh dear. I don't think we can referee. Etymologically, the word 'data' is plural anyway - of the Latin 'datum', meaning thing given - so, strictly (but conservatively) speaking, it should always be 'those data (are)'. However, in popular use - and this is what ultimately determines what is 'correct' - it's come to be regarded as a collective singular, which is natural given that the referent is usually a set of figures/facts/whatever.

If you accept data as singular, you could still argue for 'those data' when referring to more than one such set. Is this what you mean by "plural data"?

In short, we don't think there's a 'correct' answer. It's not just a grammatical matter, it's a conceptual one too. The popular concept of the word is still in flux and even editors chew their pencils over whether to say 'data is' or 'data are'. Perhaps the fact that both the Shorter Oxford and the Collins note (and the Shorter Oxford illustrates) both uses without proscribing either suggests that you and the professor can both be regarded as right!

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