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DIFFERENCE OF PERSON AND PEOPLE

Help on English vocab, including idioms, slang and sayings

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Re: DIFFERENCE OF PERSON AND PEOPLE

Postby kittyhoang » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:23 pm

pedagog wrote:The info from joseph is correct. Some authorities (Strunk, for example) hold that "The word people is not to be used with words of number, in place of persons." {The Elements of Style, 1918} I disagree with this very old idea, particularly when Strunk gives such a flimsy example: "If of 'six people' five went away, how many 'people' would be left?" You can see how his example is silly if you substitute "geese" for "people". Sometimes the use of "the people" is vague, as the other answer shows. Out of context, we can't be sure if it means the populace or the people in an elevator. In these modern times, we aren't so strict as to limit people to mean only populace. We often accept it as the plural of persons, especially when the number is large. In legal and governmental use, persons is much more common than people when noting any easily counted group: "Sixteen persons witnessed the accident." One other use of people has become popular in recent years, although it makes me wince: those under the supervision or employ of someone. Example "My people will meet with your people to work out a contract."


Regarding this "countable" business: Don't confuse "countable" with "plural". In fact, people is always plural, as is peoples. You would never say "The people is revolting." We compare countable with measurable. Countable nouns need "many" or "fewer". Measurable nouns need "much" or "less". Some nouns can be used in either a countable or measurable sense, such as "troubles". Example: "His troubles are less than mine," means they are not as great or as serious as mine. "His troubles are fewer than mine," means he has a smaller number of troubles than I. We also accept some numbers as milestones or thresholds where either less or fewer can apply, such as "Less than a hundred men fought on the side of Spain in that battle."


Thanks for your help to explain very clearly the usage of two words people and person.
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Re: DIFFERENCE OF PERSON AND PEOPLE

Postby sweethuman » Thu May 12, 2011 7:27 am

Constance wrote:Hi Tukanja,

You mentioned an example: This people will not vote for him.

I have learnt in school that 'this' is for singular and 'these' is for plural.

Is 'this' a special usage in the above example?



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Re: DIFFERENCE OF PERSON AND PEOPLE

Postby jmio » Thu May 12, 2011 8:12 am

I don't actually have anything to add to the "people" vs. "persons" debate, but "in context" was perfectly acceptable English, and in my mind probably preferable over any of the alternatives offered.
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