People or persons?

Мы живем среди людей, и очень часто нам требуется о них поговорить.

Английское слово “люди”, как правило, легко запоминается. Трудности начинаются, когда требуется сказать об одном человеке. Какое же у него парное слово? И можно ли сказать “peoples”?

People

Произношение и перевод:People or Persons?People [‘piːpl] / [пипл] – люди

Значение слова:Некоторое количество людей (мужчин, женщин, детей)

Употребление:Мы используем слово people, когда говорим о некотором количестве людей (независимо от пола и возраста). Например: Сегодня в метро очень много людей (people). Многие люди (people) передвигаются по городу на велосипеде.

Пример:

He doesn’t care what other people think about him.Его не волнует, что другие люди думают о нем.

How many people are you going to invite?Сколько людей ты собираешься пригласить? 

I met many new people during my travel.Я встретил много новых людей во время своего путешествия. 

Person

Произношение и перевод:People or Persons?Person ['pɜ:sn] / [пё’сн] – человек

Значение слова:Один человек (мужчина или женщина или ребенок)

Употребление:Мы употребляем person, когда говорим об отдельно взятом человеке. Это слово – единственное число от people. Например: Мой друг Джон – интересный человек (person). Человек (person), сидящий за рулем, должен быть внимательным.

Пример:

We found the right person for this job.Мы нашли подходящего человека для этой работы.

The price is 10$ per person.Плата – 10 долларов с человека.

He accidently sent an e-mail to a wrong person.Он случайно послал е-мейл не тому человеку

Итак, мы установили, что person-people – это такая же пара, как table-tables (стол-столы) или tree-trees (дерево-деревья). Но существуют ли слова peoples и persons?

Существуют! Однако будьте внимательны: у них другое значение!

Peoples

Произношение и перевод:People or Persons?Peoples [‘piːplz] / [пиплз] – народы, национальные группы

Значение слова:Национальная группа, проживающая на определенной территории и объединенная общей историей, языком, культурой и т.д.

Употребление:Слово peoples используется только, когда мы говорим о народах как о национальных группах (русские, испанцы, японцы, калмыки и т.д.). Например: В Африке проживает много различных народов (peoples). Что ты знаешь о коренных народах (peoples) Северной Америки?

Peoples является множественным числом от слова people, взятого в другом значении: не «люди», как выше, а «народ, национальная группа». Соответственно, peopleможно использовать и в единственном числе. Например: Президент обратился с речью к своему народу (people).

Пример:

This organization represents aboriginal peoples of Canada.Эта организация представляет аборигенные народы Канады.

Some peoples of Far North are nomads.Некоторые народы крайнего севера – кочевники.

We hope to develop peaceful relationships between our two peoples.Мы надеемся развивать мирные отношения между нашими двумя народами.

Persons

Произношение и перевод:People or Persons?Persons [p'ɜːsnz] / [пё’снз] – люди, лица

Значение слова:Некоторое количество людей (мужчин, женщин, детей)

Употребление:Слово persons используется только и исключительно в официально-деловом языке (законы, договоры, документы и т.д.). Его можно перевести как русское “лица”. Например: Лица (persons), берущие кредит, должны предоставить ряд документов. Лицам (persons), не имеющим паспорта, вход на мероприятие воспрещен.

Пример:

Police must have a legal reason to arrest persons who are accused of having committed a crime.Полиция должна иметь законные основание для ареста лиц, обвиненных в совершении преступления.

For persons who wish to adopt a child there are certain requirements.Для лиц, желающих усыновить ребенка, существуют определенные требования.

There are several categories of persons entitled to citizenship.Существует несколько категорий лиц, имеющих право на получение гражданства.

В чем разница?

Person – это “человек” (пол и возраст неважны). Например: Каждый человек (person) хочет стать счастливым. Первый человек (person), отправившийся в космос – это Юрий Гагарин.

See also:  You have a responsibility to write clearly, and we have advice on how to do it

People – это “люди”, то есть, несколько человек. Например: В нашей команде было пять человек (people). На площади большая толпа людей (people).

Peoples – это “народы, национальные группы”. Например: На современной территории России проживают различные народы (peoples). Коренные народы (peoples) имеют представителей в местных органах власти.

Persons

People versus Persons

People or Persons?

Felix asks, “I was just wondering when it was appropriate to use people as opposed to persons.”

There is some confusion regarding the two terms, especially because their meaning and usage suffered a mutation along the centuries. Both derive from Latin, but from different words.

Person derives from persona, which refers to an individual. People, on the other hand, derives from populum, and it refers to a group of persons sharing a culture or social environment.

Person is a singular form, and its plural is persons. Over the time, however, many writers started to adopt people as the plural form of person, and nowadays it is widely accepted. Notice that legal and very formal texts still use persons as the plural form.

One distinction that was proposed was to use persons as long as there was a countable number of individuals (e.g., 67 persons left the school) and people when such a number was large and indefinite (e.g., the people left the stadium quickly). The rule did not catch on, though, and some writers still use people even when there is a definite or small number of individuals.

Finally, people can also be used in the plural form (e.g., the peoples of Asia) when it refers to the different cultural groups that live in a certain region.

Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!

Keep learning! Browse the Misused Words category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:

People vs. Persons

In the modern sense, the word people has slowly been adopted by some writers as the de facto plural form of person in place of its traditional plural form persons. However, persons as a term is still used in legal and some formal writing. This post will help you distinguish between these two words so you can properly use them in your writing.

The word people is most commonly used as a noun denoting “human beings in general or considered collectively” or “the men, women, and children of a particular nation, community, or ethnic group.”

  • The people of Kiribati could become the world’s first climate refugees
    CBS News
  • People Are Loving This Boy’s Reaction Every Time His Sister Picks Him Up
    BuzzFeed News
  • A lot of people are betting Conor McGregor is going to knock out Floyd Mayweather
    Quartz

On the other hand, the term persons serves as the original plural form of the word person which is a noun referring to “a human being regarded as an individual” and is usually used in legal and formal setting.

  1. Federal Funding Cuts Put Missing Persons and John Doe Cases on the Back Burner
    TIME
  2. 3 persons missing in Douglas County
    KCBY
  3. Persons with disabilities must insist on inclusion
    Barbados Advocate

Now that we’ve discussed their definitions, let’s try to examine a traditonal distinction between these two words. People is usually used for uncountable groups of individuals while persons is used for groups that are easily countable.

  • The Number of People on Food Stamps Is Falling. Here’s Why
    Newsweek
  • Aadhaar reunites 3 missing persons with families in Bengaluru
    Times of India
  • Local law enforcement opens up on missing persons cases
    Winchester Sun
See also:  "compliment" versus "complement"

Whether you want to stick to the traditional distinctions between the words people and persons is up to you. What’s important is you use them properly in your sentences.

“People is” / “people are”, “persons” / “people” in English

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

If you found this article using a search engine, the odds are that what you really mean is “people are”.

Although the word people has two meanings (as we will see below), it is almost always used to mean “persons” (the plural of “person”) and is therefore a plural noun.

Although the word “persons” exists, it sounds very formal and is used primarily in legal contexts. In spoken English, you will do just fine if you use only “people” with a plural verb:

  • correct There are young people at the party. (correct)
  • wrong There is young people at the party. (wrong)
  • unnatural There are young persons at the party. (unnatural, except in formal contexts, such as a police report)

The same is true for any other verb, not just “to be”:

  1. correct People generally don’t know much about mathematics.
  2. wrong People generally doesn’t know much about mathematics.
  3. unnatural Persons generally don’t know much about mathematics.

There is, however, also another meaning of the word “people”, namely “the set of individuals who belong to the same ethnic group”, i.e. something similar to “folk” or “nation”. In this sense, it is usually used in the plural:

correct Ancient peoples of Central America often saw each other as an enemy.

wrong Ancient people of Central America often saw each other as an enemy.

The second example is not grammatically wrong; it would imply that the individual people saw each other as an enemy. If you mean that different tribes saw each other as an enemy, you must use “peoples”.

In the very same sense, people could be used as a singular noun:

correct Among them, the Maya people was one of the greatest.

unnatural Among them, the Maya people were one of the greatest.

People vs. Persons – Grammar and Punctuation

The noun person has two plurals: persons and people. Most people don’t use persons, but the sticklers say there are times when we should. “When we say persons,” says Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage, “we are thinking, or ought to be, of ones—individuals with identities; whereas when we say people we should mean a large group, an indefinite and anonymous mass.”

The traditional rule is that persons is used for either an exact or a small number. So we might estimate that a hundred people were there. Or if we know the exact number, we’d say ninety-eight persons were there.

As for “a small number,” how small is “small”? In Words on Words, John B. Bremner suggests fewer than fifty. Theodore M. Bernstein concurs, saying in The Careful Writer that fifty people is acceptable. To Bernstein, two people is nearly unthinkable but 4,381 persons is “quite proper.”

Meanwhile, the language moves on. In A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner calls the persons-people distinction “pedantic.

” Garner says that twelve persons on the jury “sounds stuffy” and that most Americans today would say people instead. Roy H. Copperud agrees.

See also:  "memento" or "momento"?

In A Dictionary of Usage and Style he dismisses the grammatical superiority of persons as “superstition,” a law that “usage has in fact repealed.”

Because persons sounds aloof and clinical, the word still thrives in legal, official, or formal usage. A hotel chain’s website offers “options for three and more persons.” Elevators carry signs saying, “Occupancy by more than eight persons is unlawful.” The Department of Justice has a database called the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

A more timely debate these days would be people vs. folks. Traditionalists regard folks with suspicion and contempt. Bernstein says, “Folks is a casualism … not suitable for general straightforward writing.

” Bremner calls it “deliberately folksy” and “corny in formal speech and writing.

” But judging by its growing popularity and acceptance in this informal age, folks will probably be synonymous with people in another ten years.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2014, at 11:02 am

If you wish to respond to another reader's question or comment, please click its corresponding “REPLY” button. If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the “Comment” box at the bottom of this page.

25 Comments on People vs. Persons

When to Say Persons vs. People

Whoa . . . look at all those people! Photo by Ezra Comeau-Jeffrey on Unsplash

Do you want your writing to be instantly transformed into a mucky mess of corporate-sounding mush? Then be sure to use persons as the plural word for person. Whiz! Bang! You’ve got yourself something no one will want to read.

Today we usually only see persons in those kinds of behemoth documents. (Think about the Human Resources manuals you had to promise your boss you read.) It wasn’t always this way, though.

There is a difference between people and persons. Traditionally, persons was used when referring to a group of humans for which the exact number of humans was known.

  • Example: Four persons were involved in the robbery.
  • People was used as a mass noun when you didn’t know the number of humans in a group.
  • Example: There were so many people at the rally.

Etymology
The words’ etymologies support this traditional usage. Person comes from the Latin word persona, meaning a singular “human being, person.” People comes from the Latin word populus, meaning “a people, nation; body of citizens; a multitude.”

Modern usage
When considering person’s etymology, it follows that plural word for multiple individuals should be persons. However, people has so taken over the definition of persons, in addition to its own, that now you really only see it in those stuffy Human Resources documents and legal writings I mentioned earlier.

  1. So unless you’re a lawyer, or you’re writing a really boring piece of corporate text, use people.
  2. Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of book editing, author coaching, and social media packages.
  3. Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*