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Persons or People? Options
Elysium
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 10:27:15 PM

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
So I've seen the word "persons" used a lot in formal and old writing, like the papers taped on the wall beside the fire alarm that has never been touched, but is "persons" actually a word and how do I use it? Should it be "people" instead?
FounDit
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 10:33:50 PM

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Elysium wrote:
So I've seen the word "persons" used a lot in formal and old writing, like the papers taped on the wall beside the fire alarm that has never been touched, but is "persons" actually a word and how do I use it? Should it be "people" instead?


It is more often seen in older writing styles, or in legal documents. "People" would be the more common word to use in most instances.

From TFD:
Usage: People is the word usually used to refer to more than one individual: there were a hundred people at the reception. Persons is rarely used, except in official English: several persons were interviewed

(Emphasis FounDit)


We should look to the past to learn from it, not destroy our future because of it — FounDit
leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 10:36:24 PM

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Elysium wrote:
So I've seen the word "persons" used a lot in formal and old writing, like the papers taped on the wall beside the fire alarm that has never been touched, but is "persons" actually a word and how do I use it? Should it be "people" instead?


"Persons" is the correct plural of "person"; "people" is often an exact substitute for "persons", except when it refers collectively to an ethnic group.

"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Flagman
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 2:39:42 AM

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Location: New Milford, Connecticut, United States
Hi,

Here is a clear explanation of the two words :

People vs. persons : http://grammarist.com/usage/people-persons/
ellana
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 5:34:27 AM
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Flagman... I looked at your link and I have to agree with the usage. My ESL students frequently ask me this question.
Flagman
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:41:49 AM

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Thanks Ellana.
Allana
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 11:18:49 AM

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Location: Saint Albans, England, United Kingdom
First, I tried Flagman's link, and don't entirely agree with what I found. I was brought up to use people as the correct plural pf person; that persons was only used in certain legal phrases or if you wished to display scorn or contempt for the people you were talking about. Person could also be used as a term of contempt for a known individual instead of the name,

I have another, more important issue with flagman's link. First the page went dark, text and background were all greyed out so that is was difficult to read, and then anywhere I clicked on the pager I was redirected to Frank's Sin City page on Facebook. Not a page I would have visited voluntarily.

Don't be afraid to be wrong. You learn more. (Me)
Elysium
Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2014 9:26:39 AM

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Thanks all. Now I know! Though I've grown up never using the word "persons" they both sound right. Applause Dancing
Briton
Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2014 8:49:32 PM

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Oh dear, Allana, how unfortunate.

I live in the UK too and I have none of those problems. The link comes through quite clearly for me.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2014 9:22:02 PM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
Allanah -

Your usage description fits what I was taught too.

I was struck all of a heap when the OP wasn't even sure if "persons" was a word, and when people said it wasn't used much any more.

And then I realised that we DON'T, in fact, say it all that much at all (except, as Allanah said, to express scorn or disgust). It's just that we see it in buses and lifts, and fairground rides and interactive museum displays, and notices ...it's in use. So it's a familiar word to us: but more from sight than in speech.

From which I deduce that AE doesn't employ it in public, formal Notifications e.g. "Any persons found on this land will be charged with trespass" "No more than 2 persons in the booth at one time." ?

.
Omar Mariani
Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2014 2:07:15 PM

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Location: Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires F.D., Argentina
Use "people" instead of "persons" all the time
Romany
Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014 5:56:58 PM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
How strange: I heard a talk on the radio last night in which the word "person" sounded as though it had completely taken over in all usages!! Part of the new Gov-speak or latest jargon, it appears.
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