HomeQ&AThere are many persons in the classroom

There are many persons in the classroom

2
votes

There are many people in the classroom

There are many persons in the classroom

Are "people" and "persons" interchangeable? Thank you.

7902 views
updated FEB 7, 2011
posted by nila45

9 Answers

2
votes

Alright, this is an interesting case. If you want to sound natural, most English speakers would say, "There are many people in the classroom." "There are many persons in the room," would sound odd and formal, and indeed wrong to some ears, and I would advise against using it in almost all contexts. This is what your teacher was getting at when she corrected you. However, technically speaking, 'persons' is actually correct, and 'people' is wrong in this case. 'Person' is the singular form of the noun and 'persons' is the plural. One person, two persons, three persons, etc. 'People' is the singular form of a different noun, and 'peoples' is its plural form. One people, two peoples, many peoples. Properly speaking, 'one people' refers to one community/nation/group. 'Many peoples' refers to several such communities.

Strunk and White agree, as evinced by this passage from The Elements of Style (3rd Edition):

The word people is best not used with words of number, in place of persons. If of "six people" five went away, how many would be left? Answer: one people.

Note: The thing about six people is there to show why 'people' should not be used for the plural of 'person'. That is, when used consistently, it's clearly wrong. One people is not left. If one people were left, there would be many persons left, because 'a people' is a group of people. One person is left.

However, in conclusion, it is extremely widely accepted even in very formal writing and probably effectively almost correct to use people for the 'plural' of 'person'. The only time you really hear 'persons' is in crime shows and stuff, like if someone were to say "drugs were found on their persons," where 'persons' is referring to their bodies, to say that drugs were found in someone's possession.

I would say, "There are many people in the room," unless my paper were being graded by William Strunk Jr., in which case I would use 'persons'. But with the state of cryogenics these days, I don't think that's likely.

updated FEB 7, 2011
edited by MacFadden
posted by MacFadden
Generally good points made but the question in the quote doesn't actually make complete sense - FELIZ77, MAY 26, 2010
It looked odd to me at first too, but I didn't explain why it made sense to me on a second reading when I first posted this. I've just edited my answer to include a more thorough explanation of the question in the quote. Does it make more sense now? - MacFadden, MAY 26, 2010
Surely it should read if of "six people" 5 went away, how many would be left? Why is the number 5 missing ?! - FELIZ77, MAY 26, 2010
Ah, yes. Typo. Thanks. ;) - MacFadden, MAY 26, 2010
1
vote

Yes, but people is more common

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by BellaMargarita
1
vote

E teoría y muy en teoría, debe ser "a lot of", many y much , negativa /interrogativa. En éxamenes se lo marcan como incorrecto.

Es decir, no debes usar many en afirmativa, si no, luego se lía la cosa.

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by 00494d19
Ok. I don't know why but that is something that I cannot remember very well. - nila45, MAY 26, 2010
I'll buy that for 'much' but 'many is fine in Nila's sentence (if anything, better than 'a lot of').. - samdie, MAY 26, 2010
1
vote

You are probably being corrected because "persons" does not sound natural in this context. "Persons" would be used in a more formal document, say of a legal nature, or perhaps in a contract.

When the word "persons" is used in regular speech, the word is usually "person's" or showing possession, which is not the same word at all.

Although the example you used might be grammatically correct, you would never hear it said this way.

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by Nicole-B
1
vote

In this context you should use, "There are many people in the classroom." Persons is not correct here. Hope that helps. smile

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by Jason7R
0
votes

"People **or persons**" BUT please see below

Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus (Concise edition) says:

                                      **USAGE**

"People is the word usually used to refer to more than one individual: 'there were more than one hundred people at the reception'. Persons is rarely used except in official English; 'several persons were interviewed'."

You would normally say in English: There are many* people in the classroom (formal)

or there are lots of people in the classroom (informal) or there are a lot of people

An alternative word for many is **numerous*** and can be used in place of the word many

updated MAY 26, 2010
edited by FELIZ77
posted by FELIZ77
0
votes

In summary, nobody likes "persons". As a pure guess, it isn't used because "a person" is somehow an individual and the notion of, for instance, a classroom full of individuals, when you have only had a quick glance at them, is difficult to accept. In practice, "Persons" is a somewhat hypothetical word that dictionaries include, not because anyone ever uses it but because it somehow must exist. The truth, as everyone has said here, is that "people" in the sense you are using is the true, working, accepted plural of "person".

Now. as Heidita says, in this case few people would say "many people"; they would use either "lots of people" or "a lot of people" (please do not expect me to judge between these).

The only common, daily use of "many people" is to home in on a selection of people who do, believe or possess something in common. A A Milne, the creator of Pooh Bear, in his poem "The King's Breakfast" shows you this when he writes "Many people nowadays eat marmalade instead". Try searching for "many people" and you will find that "many people nowadays" is actually the majority use although there are plenty of instances of "many people think/eat/say etc.".

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by geofc
0
votes

I have a problem with "persons" because when I wrote "persons" my teachers corrected it and put "people" instead. Why?. I have seen "persons" in the dictionary. That does exist. I don't see the problem.

updated MAY 26, 2010
edited by nila45
posted by nila45
0
votes

To my knowledge, they have become interchangeable. In the case that you have above, I would prefer the word "people," but that is just my own personal hang-up. lol smile

updated MAY 26, 2010
posted by Delores--Lindsey
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