Plural of Person

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
The most common plural of person is people. It is possible to use the plural persons in certain situations.

The Plural of Person

The most common plural of person is people.
  • If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.
  • Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.
The plural persons can be used in a limited number of situations. It usually reserved for legal and very formal texts (like newspapers) and unless it is used in this way, it is widely regarded as a mistake.
  • Persons of interest are being questioned following the disappearance of a pregnant woman from Little Village three weeks ago.
  • You must act with other regulated persons in a manner consistent with persons having mutual trust and confidence in each other.
Below is a table for the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.

Are You Good at Plurals?

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The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals

The table below shows the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.
Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns person
scythe
add s persons
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z bus
dress
add es buses
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o potato
zero
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
potatoes
zeros
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
ratio
add s patios
ratios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
penny
change the y to an i and add es stories
pennies
Nouns ending [vowel] y storey ()
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
knife
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
knives
Exceptions person
louse
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change people
lice
More exceptions salmon
sheep
some nouns do not change at all salmon
sheep

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Person?

There is confusion because person typically has an irregular way of forming its plural. It's possible to write persons, but this is only acceptable when written as part of a law or a ruling. For example:
  • Persons of interest
  • Missing persons
There is no such word as peoples. People denotes an unspecified number of more than one person.
Another Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from another exercise on plurals, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Unusual pluralsPlural forming table Quirks with forming plurals Forming the plurals of abbreviations Forming the plurals of compound nouns