25 August 2023
Hi there! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "persons" and "people."
My name is Richard. I am from Uruguay. I would like to ask you about the differences between "persons" and "people."
I learned that I have to use "people" as a plural of "person," however I saw that in English sometimes they write "persons" as a plural instead of "people."
Thanks in advance,
Thank you for writing to us, Richard.
This is a great question. Both words are the plural form of "person," but we use them in different situations. Let's explore each word further.
A "person" is a noun meaning an individual human. "Person" is in the singular form.
In English, we do have a plural form of that word, which is "persons." Although we do not use it much in everyday speech, the word "persons" is often used in law, especially when talking about "missing persons" or "persons of interest."
Police said they are seeking three persons of interest possibly in connection with the robbery.
People and Peoples
Most often, we use the word "people" to mean multiple or a group of humans. It is the most common plural form of "person." The word is a countable noun. And, although "people" is defined as many humans, it is not a collective noun. Collective nouns describe many individuals who form a group.
There were 50 people picking apples at the orchard.
Susan enjoys being around a lot of people.
We often use the word "people" when talking about one ethnic group or nationality.
The Ukrainian people celebrate their independence day on August 24th.
Sometimes you may see "peoples," with an "s." We use "peoples" when we are talking about different ethnic groups in the same area.
The peoples of the Caucasus are spread over six countries and include more than 50 ethnic groups.
Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Richard.
Do you have a question about American English? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And that's Ask a Teacher.
I'm Faith Pirlo.
Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
orchard – n. an area of land on which fruit trees are grown
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