Words Students Confuse - "people" and "persons"

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,093 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

What is the plural form of 'person'?

The regular way to make a plural form in English is simply to add an -s to the word. One word, two words; one dog, two dogs; one paper, two papers.

Logically, the plural form of the word person should be persons. But the accepted usage in almost every case is people.

When you are writing or speaking, prefer the plural form people to the form persons. You may use persons in some specific cases, such as:
  • legal - the persons accused of the crime, the person or persons who stole the money will be caught
  • accepted expressions - missing persons, unauthorized persons will not be admitted 
  • quotations - "We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person." W. Somerset Maugham
In every other situation, use the word people as the plural form of person.
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