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  1. Noego's Avatar
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    #1

    Can we say ''persons''?

    I used to think that person was the singular form of people (much like men and man).

    I recently read this, however, coming from the free dictionary:

    A body of persons living in the same country under one national government; a nationality.

    When should we use ''persons''? Can we interchange ''persons'' and ''people'' at will, or is ''persons'' specific context? If so, in which context should we use ''persons'' instead of ''people''?

    Thanks.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #2

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noego View Post
    I used to think that person was the singular form of people (much like men and man).

    I recently read this, however, coming from the free dictionary:

    A body of persons living in the same country under one national government; a nationality.

    When should we use ''persons''? Can we interchange ''persons'' and ''people'' at will, or is ''persons'' specific context? If so, in which context should we use ''persons'' instead of ''people''?

    Thanks.
    I can't, at this moment, offer you a reason or reasons why, Noego. I think it's enough for now that you recognize that it can be used in such a manner. Now for the next while, it'll only be part of your passive vocabulary, in much the same way that it is part of mine, a native speaker of many a year and an ESL teacher for over eighteen years now.

    [I'm presently teaching my dog English but it's taking her quite awhile to get the hang of it. She's always complaining that I told her that after fractions and trigonometry, English would be a breeze.]

    I don't use this form all that much in my active language but I too know the meaning and that it's okay when I see it used.

    I'd say that it's used in more formal instances such as police reports;

    Person or persons unknown


    • Join Date: Sep 2007
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    #3

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noego View Post
    I used to think that person was the singular form of people (much like men and man).

    I recently read this, however, coming from the free dictionary:

    A body of persons living in the same country under one national government; a nationality.

    When should we use ''persons''? Can we interchange ''persons'' and ''people'' at will, or is ''persons'' specific context? If so, in which context should we use ''persons'' instead of ''people''?

    Thanks.
    Person refers to an individual. But I have heard it used in police reporting.

    The crime was committed by person or persons unknown.

    Actually I think "persons" is very commonly used in legal English. It is not as commonly used in common English

  2. Noego's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Thank you for the clarifications.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    It's formal, but not restricted to police directives (in case you had got that impression). It's often used (in the UK) in warnings on TV. For example 'This news item contains footage of scenes of state-sanctioned violence. Persons of an impressionable disposition should look away now.'

    b


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    #6

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    It's formal, but not restricted to police directives (in case you had got that impression). It's often used (in the UK) in warnings on TV. For example 'This news item contains footage of scenes of state-sanctioned violence. Persons of an impressionable disposition should look away now.'

    b
    Again...this is a legal phrase.

  4. IvanV's Avatar

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    #7

    Post Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by Naamplao View Post
    Again...this is a legal phrase.
    Not precisely... In this TV warning ''persons'' has nothing to do with legal affairs. Actually, I doubt we can call it a phrase at all, let alone a legal one.

    Additionally, lots of people use this plural form in everyday speech. But it is maybe a wee bit formal.


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    #8

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by IvanV View Post
    Not precisely... In this TV warning ''persons'' has nothing to do with legal affairs. Actually, I doubt we can call it a phrase at all, let alone a legal one.

    Additionally, lots of people use this plural form in everyday speech. But it is maybe a wee bit formal.
    Yes, it is legal language. The television puts this statement on the air to warn people not to watch the program if they are offended by its content. They do this so they don't run into problems with people suing them.

  5. IvanV's Avatar

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    #9

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    You've misunderstood me. It is in a way a legal statement, but it surely is not a legal phrase, and has NOTHING, I repeat, nothing to do with ''legal language''.

    Think about it! Would it still be a legal statement if it was written: ''This block contains scenes of violent pornography. If you find yourself offended by such material, or disturbed in any other way, please look away now.''

    Yes it would, regardless of using ''persons'' or not, I think.
    Do you see my point?

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    #10

    Re: Can we say ''persons''?

    Quote Originally Posted by IvanV View Post
    You've misunderstood me. It is in a way a legal statement, but it surely is not a legal phrase, and has NOTHING, I repeat, nothing to do with ''legal language''.

    Think about it! Would it still be a legal statement if it was written: ''This block contains scenes of violent pornography. If you find yourself offended by such material, or disturbed in any other way, please look away now.''

    Yes it would, regardless of using ''persons'' or not, I think.
    Do you see my point?
    Persons (as a plural) should be used only when it is in a direct quote or part of a title (such as the Bureau of Missing Persons).
    Then American Heritage goes one further and adds a usage note:

    People is a collective noun that cannot be used as a substitute for persons when referring to a specific number of individuals. Persons is used in quasilegal contexts, but it is pedantic to insist on it.

    Generally, people is the plural of person....There used to be a rule that persons is used when speaking of a number of people who can be counted [ this might be the case of your sentence:
    [A body of persons living in the same country under one national government; a nationality.]
    and people is used when speaking of a large or uncounted number of individuals.
    e.g.

    There are fifteen persons on this committee but three hundred million people in the United States.

    We can put twelve persons in each lifeboat.

    How many people visit this mall every year?


    According to Burchfield in “The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage,” however, the plural form persons is slowly retreating, and people is now widely used in whatever circumstance we need the plural of person.

    source:http://www.melaniespiller.com/Articl...rsonPeople.htm
    Last edited by Teia; 11-Oct-2007 at 18:55.

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