people, persons
Both words have been in use for several centuries to denote the plural of person, the difference usually being explained in terms of people referring to a group of which the exact number cannot be determined or is irrelevant and persons to a number of individuals who are countable or regarded separately:

• A great many people feel that a hug can make their day —Chicago Tribune, 1991

• It is morally certain that a number of persons signed confessions to crimes of which they were innocent —K. Lindsay, 1980.

However, this distinction is not watertight, as the following examples show:

• Persons may squat in buildings by reason of inability to find other accommodation —Oxford Companion to Law, 1980

• It now numbers some 40 people, as well as the Jersey cows, the Aberdeen Angus bull, the horse, three ponies, and a handful of fecund goats and breeding sows —Country Living, 1991.

To judge from the recent evidence, the distinction is based as much on context as on meaning, with people used as the general word and persons used in more formal contexts (e.g. law) and to emphasize individuality. The plural Persons (and generally not People) also occurs in compound forms such as barpersons, chairpersons, spokespersons, and other gender-neutral forms. An exception is sportspeople, which is typically treated collectively in usage.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Persons — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Gordon Persons (1902–1965), US amerikanischer Politiker Henry Persons (1834–1910), US amerikanischer Politiker Peter Persons (* 1962), US amerikanischer Profigolfer Wilton Persons (1896–1977), US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • -persons — [pʉr′sənz] combining form alt. pl. of PERSON: see the note at PERSON (sense 1) * * * …   Universalium

  • persons — index humanity (mankind), populace, population, public Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • -persons — [pʉr′sənz] combining form alt. pl. of PERSON: see the note at PERSON (sense 1) …   English World dictionary

  • persons — noun /ˈpɜːsənz/ ; used to refer to them individually, rather than as a group. Contrast . Which persons are responsible for this mess? …   Wiktionary

  • persons — See people. See people, persons …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

  • Persons Unknown — Titre original Persons Unknown Autres titres francophones Captifs (Québec) Genre Mini série dramatique, mystère …   Wikipédia en Français

  • persons in power — index hierarchy (persons in authority) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • Persons, Robert — • English Jesuit (1546 1610) Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • persons discharging managerial responsibilities — person discharging managerial responsibilities (PDMR) As defined in section 96B of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000: • A director; or • A senior executive of an issuer who …   Law dictionary

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