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I need help for this story I'm writing. I have been told before that you can't use the word "peoples" in a sentence because it is not grammatically correct or doesn't exist by many people.

If I were to say ... capacity of 150 peoples. would it be grammatically correct? If not, when can I use "peoples"?

  • Yeah, you'd usually see "capacity of 150 persons". (Or, even more often, "capacity 150", leaving you to guess whether that's people, cats, or earwigs.) – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 20:09
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Peoples is the plural of people when people means a nation or ethnic group, or the like. For example, there is a book called Africa, its peoples and their cultural history. This title does not indicate a history of individual Africans, but of African tribes and nations.

People is the usual plural of person, meaning individual human, although one also sees persons. When speaking about a number of individuals, peoples is never correct.

In the phrase "capacity of 150 X" it is clear that you are referring to 150 individuals, so peoples is incorrect. The phrase should be

... capacity of 150 people.

However, "persons" is more likely to appear in legislative and regulatory texts, so it would not be unusual to see an official notice restricting a room's occupancy to

... no more than 150 persons.

  • In legislative language, I think an interesting research question would be whether persons was primarily used when non-natural persons ("corporations are people too, my friend!") were included. Probably it's not that cut-and-dried, though. – outis nihil Jul 17 '15 at 20:12
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Use "peoples" when you're talking about more than one group of people. For instance, James Forsyth wrote a book called A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony 1581-1990. This is an ethnographic history of the region, talking about different ethnic groups.

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