one of the <people or persons> who never

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'People' is the plural form of 'person', but I read the following sentence:
'I've been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer...'
from the poem 'If I had my life to live over'.

Seems 'persons' can be used as the plural form of 'person', too. But someone told me it's not correct to say 'persons'.
What do you think? Is there some difference in using 'persons' and 'people'?
 
  • Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    In my view this use of 'persons' is grammatically wrong. However, all is right in love, war and poetry. Maybe the internal requirements of the poem (alliteration etc) made this the right word to use. I doubt it, however.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The problem is that people is not the true plural of person. Both words have their own plural. So, people is often (but not always) used as the plural of person.

    A strange person came into my shop today = one man or woman
    The persons who come into my shop are always wealthy. = every individual person (more commonly people would be used here, but both are correct.)

    The Chinese are a hard-working people = nation
    The peoples of China speak many different languages. = different groups that make up the whole.
     
    In my view this use of 'persons' is grammatically wrong. However, all is right in love, war and poetry. Maybe the internal requirements of the poem (alliteration etc) made this the right word to use. I doubt it, however.
    Thank you, Elwintee, your 'all is right in love, war, and poetry' is pretty impressive. :D And I guess I'd like to add 'all is right in wife or girlfriend'. :)
     
    The problem is that people is not the true plural of person. Both words have their own plural. So, people is often (but not always) used as the plural of person.

    A strange person came into my shop today = one man or woman
    The persons who come into my shop are always wealthy. = every individual person (more commonly people would be used here, but both are correct.)

    The Chinese are a hard-working people = nation
    The peoples of China speak many different languages. = different groups that make up the whole.
    PaulQ, do you men we can say 'persons' to refer to 'more than one person' just like 'people'. Can I say 'persons' and 'people' are interchangeable in this scenario?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I think that you can say persons.

    People
    refers to a mass of humans as if they were one unit and is a general term.

    Persons refers to every individual man, woman and child. e.g.
    "Persons who throw rubbish into the street will be prosecuted."
    but
    "People enjoy going on vacation."
     
    As PaulQ noted, "people" is not the plural of "person"; the plural of person is "persons", but it is commonly replaced in use by "people", one of the meanings of which is "persons".

    There are instances, however, where the use of "persons" is preferable to "people". For example, here is the New York State statute that defines the crime called "inciting to riot":
    A person is guilty of inciting to riot when he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm.
    In a context such as this, where the exact number of human beings engaged in an action is of great importance, and we are considering what one person does with ten others just like him, "ten persons" is better than "ten people."
     
    Thank you, my friends, your answers are all loud and clear. Now I know we can use both 'people' and 'persons' to refer to more than one person, but the former one implies we take them as a group of something in common, while the latter one implies we take them as several individuals.
     
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