About The Joy of English

Grammar: media is or media are?

The traditional treatment of media is that it is a plural, which means that it must be the media are and the media listen etc instead of the 'media is' and 'the media listens' etc.

However, the idea here is that media is the plural of medium. The modern interpretation is that media is now a collective singular, similar to 'team', 'group' etc. Therefore the singular use of the media is and the media listens is perfectly acceptable in 2013. Academic discourse is just about the only exception to this new rule.

Some Old School thinkers will disagree. But that's just the way it is. And this means that the medias is also being used as a plural. But don't just take my word for it, try the Oxford English Dictionary for their take.

For a more skewed view of this point, I like to point out that two fortune tellers are not 'media' but mediums, and when a shop assistant asks you what sizes you'd like your two t-shirts in the answer would be two Mediums, not 'two media'. So singular media IS possible! The plural of medium is not always media, and the singular of media is not always medium.


About the author

Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.