I am subscribed to a weekly newsletter from an American company. Almost in each email they refer to their employees as "human". For example:

This weekend human Alice participated at a tech event ...

I'm not a native English speaker, but personally I love this.

Is it a good thing to call people "humans"?

Can I say that my best friend is an "amazing human"?

I think this is gender neutral, isn't it? What are the pros/cons? Can this be used in formal contexts?

Why would someone dislike calling people "humans"? When can I safely use it?

  • 1
    I'd suggest editing the question and combining some of your questions, as there are currently too many in a single post. Feb 11, 2017 at 20:50
  • 8
    As a rule of thumb, never use human where person will work: “Alice is an amazing person”. Never use human where the qualification is unnecessary: “This weekend Alice participated at a tech event”. People are humans and there is nothing inherently wrong with referring to them as such, but only do it when it’s necessary. Doing it when it is not, will raise questions in the hearer’s mind as to why it was done: “why human Alice?? Are there other non-human Alices out there?”
    – Jim
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:58
  • 5
    Just out of curiosity, is that newsletter from California? That's not a normal practice in the US (just a disclaimer). :-)
    – fixer1234
    Feb 11, 2017 at 21:06
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    Calling Alice "an amazing human being" would be right up there with (if not ahead of, imo) using "an amazing person," but in the "weekend" example, even with "Being" added, it would sound pretty random. Are you sure it didn't read: "This weekend Human Resource's Alice participated at a tech event ... " ?
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 11, 2017 at 21:43
  • 1
    I once had a significant other who objected strenuously to being called my pet human.
    – verbose
    Feb 12, 2017 at 1:18

3 Answers 3


You can definitely use those two words practically interchangeably in conversation, however, the difference is connotation. With the word, "human", think of the word, "mankind". It refers to the species mainly. Typically, you'll see science documentaries talking about mankind, humankind, early humans, etc. Person is associated with a civilized human being.


It would be best to ignore the use of "human" in that news letter. It is not common usage.
Your best friend should be referred to as "an amazing person" rather than "amazing human", unless you wish to attract attention by putting ideas in other people's heads about who, or what, might be your other friends.
The term "human" is gender neutral but is usually not used except to distinguish people from other beings:

The bones discovered last week have been identified as human.

This sentence would not be good:

Two humans crossed the street.

far better would be:

Two people (or persons) crossed the street.

As a rule "human" should not be used unless to distinguish people from other biological or mechanical beings.

Horses can run much faster than humans, but, humans gained the advantage through mental skill.

Again, ignore the news letter's use of "human".


I think your company is forward looking, anticipating contacts with aliens from across the universe. Once that happens, and the names are somewhat similar, it will make sense to say human Alice :).

Joke aside, there is difference between referring to someone as a human or a person. Refer to this answer for more details: What is the difference between "human," "human being", and "humankind"?

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