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  1. #1
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    Question How to use the word "People"

    Hello! I wonder about "people". Some, I've been able to find out through reading dictionaries, but one sentence I know I've seen somewhere can't be found an example of anywhere I look. I know you can say that the french are a wine-loving people, but can you say that they are "a people", and further:

    "On an island in the pacific a people live(s?)"

    "In the northern reaches of this country, there live(s?) a people"

    So I got two questions: Are these sentences correct in any way, and how do you decide whether or not it should be live or lives? In the example with the french, it's the french (plural) that makes me land on "are".

    I appreciate any help.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    In 1., subject-verb agreement is fine. The verb 'are' agrees in plural number with its subject 'The French'. We can test that by substituting 'The French' with a pronoun:

    1. The French are a wine-loving people.
    Test: They are a wine-loving people.

    In 2., though, the same substitution test doesn't works.

    2. A people live on an island in the Pacific.
    Test: It lives on an island in the Pacific. (Not OK)

    The reason is doesn't work is this: 'A' is singular, whereas 'people' is plural. The phrase 'A people' is short for A group of people. The head of that phrase is the singular noun 'group', and that is what 'A' modifies.

    A group of people (singular determiner + singular noun)

    When 'group of' is omitted, the object 'people' agrees in number with the verb:

    (a) A group lives ... (Number agreement: singular)
    (b) A group of people lives ... (Number agreement: singular)
    (c) A group of people live ... (Number agreement: plural)
    (d) A people live ... (Number agreement: plural)

    All are acceptable. Take your pick.

    3a. In the northern reaches of this country, there lives a group.
    3b. In the northern reaches of this country, there lives a group of people.
    3c. In the northern reaches of this country, there live a people.

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up Re: How to use the word "People"

    Thank you very much! I like your thouroughness. But, since I find this a tiny little bit hard to grasp to the full, can you verify that this sentence is ok?:

    In the northern reaches of Norway, a people dwell.

    It's pretty important that I don't screw up on this one.

    Deen

  4. #4
    Grit Guest

    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    No.

    You do not say: "A People".

    Casiopea's post is very thorough, but it's possible you have been confused with the initial 'French wine-lover/people' sentence.

    It may help you to consider that the wine-lover aspect to the sentence is singular.

    The word 'people' (more than one person) is plural.

  5. #5
    AintFoolin Guest

    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    'a people' could be correct depending on what Deen is trying to say

    if she is talking about a specific people group it would be ok, if was just a generic 'there happen to be people who live there' then it would not be ok

    it would help if you could provide the full paragraph of what you're trying to say

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    Yes, it's supposed to point to a specific group, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it used this way. Since it's open for discussion, obviously, I think I'm good. It may be unusual, but avoiding the unusual is not my goal. If it sounds a bit old-fashioned, even better. It's part of a short poem that's going to be an introduction to a work of music, and if it sounds anything like what an old storyteller would say, it only enhances the mood. Also, it's more of a fantasy type presentation than a dry observation, and that's why I find the sentence to fit the picture. Thank you very much for your input, all of you!

  7. #7
    sharpguy Guest

    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    Quote Originally Posted by Deen
    Hello! I wonder about "people". Some, I've been able to find out through reading dictionaries, but one sentence I know I've seen somewhere can't be found an example of anywhere I look. I know you can say that the french are a wine-loving people, but can you say that they are "a people", and further:

    "On an island in the pacific a people live(s?)"

    "In the northern reaches of this country, there live(s?) a people"

    So I got two questions: Are these sentences correct in any way, and how do you decide whether or not it should be live or lives? In the example with the french, it's the french (plural) that makes me land on "are".

    I appreciate any help.


    Hi this seems a pretty useful forum to brush up ones English. The forum of www.homemaster.net guided me to this place. So my dear friend you need some rigorous training in the basics of english. Do not feel offended, ok. First of all people is used in a collective sense and it can't be used to describe an individual. Its plural not singular.

  8. #8
    AintFoolin Guest

    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    > it can't be used to describe an individual

    that's not how it's being used, it's being used to describe a 'people group', like say, the Celts

    "In the far north there lived a people, a people whose hardy survival skills had been forged by countless centuries of brutal winters' - nothing wrong with that sentence

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    I'm not easily offended... In my first post, the s'es inside the ()'s were there to prompt an answer that featured comments on the singular/plural issues involved. To be honest, I'm not often impressed with the answers you get when you ask questions on internet forums. This time, though - and maybe this forum is special - I received a thorough answer that must have taken some time to write. I appreciate a lot the fact that someone would spend their time helping me, and doing it good. Not bad at all.

    I have an american friend, and he usually has a lot to contribute. But he also says this: "If it sounds good, it's good. Good is better than right if right don't do the trick in your case." I think it's his amercan sense of freedom that speaks. He may elaborate: "All languages have developed into what they are today. Most of what we say today made little sense some time ago. If nothing new is allowed, there's no development." I tend to like this kind of logic. Especially where poetry is concerned, there should be room for unusual... word constellations! However, I'm also profoundly aware of the need for control that is more important the more you want to be creative. Therefore I browse this forum, ask questions, pay extra attention when watching english/australian/american tv programmes or movies, socialize with the british as much as I can, and read books in english 99% of the time. I just love the language. And I utilize words and expressions from all forms of it, not interested in limiting myself to modern british, though I prefer british spelling.
    If there are more basics I seem to lack any control over, I'd be happy to have it pointed out, of course.

  10. #10
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use the word "People"

    Cas and AF are both right. You can say, "In the far north a people dwells." It is, perhaps, a little unusual, but that doesn't make it wrong.


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