Media (Singular or Plural?)

by Craig Shrives

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Should I write "the media is" or "the media are"?

"Media" is a collective noun, which means you can treat it as singular or plural depending on the sense of your sentence. If your sentence does not convey the idea of lots of individuals within the media, then you should treat "media" as singular.

media is or media are? (singular or plural?)
(This image from Google's Ngram Viewer shows that "media are" is marginally more popular than "media is.")

Is "Media" Singular or Plural?

"Media" derives from the Latin plural of "medium." However, it does not follow that "media" should always be treated as a plural word in modern English. "Media" is no longer the plural of "medium." The plural of "medium" is "mediums." The term "media" now means:
  • "Those who message through television, radio, the printed press or the electronic "press" (i.e., the internet)."
  • (Using this definition, "media" is a collective noun, i.e., a word that represents a group of people, animals, or things.)
As "media" is a collective noun (just like the words "team" and "jury"), writers should treat it as singular unless the "media" in their sentence considers the media as lots of separate entities. For example:
  • The media are present with vans, lorries, scooters, and bicycles.
  • (This sentence considers the media as lots of separate entities.)
  • The media is present.
  • (This sentence considers the media as one entity.)
Read more about treating collective nouns as singular or plural.

It's Plural!

As the word "media" comes from the Latin plural of "medium," some of your readers might expect you to treat it as a plural noun. However, its meaning has changed from the days when it was the plural of "medium." Nowadays, "media" can safely be considered a collective noun. Therefore, you should treat it as singular unless your sentence conveys the idea of lots of individuals within the media, in which case you should treat it as plural.
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See Also

Unusual plurals Treating collective nouns as singular or plural Either – singular or plural? Agenda – singular or plural? Data – singular or plural? Criteria – singular or plural? List of easily confused words

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