The singular of people is person. For example, if there are three people in a room, you would refer to one of them as a person. There other English nouns of this type, e.g. cattle vs cow/bull. Is there a name for this class of nouns in which the singular and plural forms are not related?

  • 1
    The singular of cattle is either cow or bull, depending on the gender. And if you object on the basis that the plural of cow is cows, remember that the plural of person is persons. Aug 15, 2020 at 12:41
  • The plural of "person" is "persons"; " people" as noun is used both as plural as well as singular (in which case its plural is peoples).
    – user392935
    Aug 15, 2020 at 12:45
  • Irregular plural nouns also here. Aug 15, 2020 at 12:45
  • @DecapitatedSoul I was a litte nervous when "octopi" showed up in the "irregular plural nouns" link but the article regained some points when it defended "octopuses" and mentioned "octopodes"
    – user888379
    Aug 15, 2020 at 12:58
  • Does this answer your question? What's the correct plural of person? Aug 15, 2020 at 15:05

2 Answers 2


From the Wikipedia article on suppletion:

In linguistics and etymology, suppletion is traditionally understood as the use of one word as the inflected form of another word when the two words are not cognate. For those learning a language, suppletive forms will be seen as "irregular" or even "highly irregular".

It gives both cow/cattle and person/people as examples, though person/people is “incomplete suppletion”. Suppletion covers more than just nouns though, including verbs like be/am/is/was/were, so the term you are specifically looking for is suppletive plurals (example).

  • A term already mentioned by others (including FF years ago) and discounted. Aug 15, 2020 at 18:43

The singular of people is person.

People and person are different words.

The plural of people is peoples; the plural of person is persons.

However a group of persons has a collective noun "people" that is in the singular but with plural agreement.

Thus we have:

1994 Dog World Aug. 112/3 Respect for a companion, whether the companion is a dog, a cat, a horse or a person is very important.

1963 E. H. Schafer Golden Peaches of Samarkand ii. 52 The great Hsüan Tsung himself, like many other noble persons, was a trained performer on the wether drum.

1991 Bellcore News 15 May 3/2 I think we should trust our people more; I think we have too many people in management.

2000 Guardian 2 Dec. (Travel section) 11/1 The Domesday entry..shows that the people of Laxton were cultivating about 720 acres of arable land.

1792 R. Bage Man as he Is III. lxv. 118 It has been usual to suppose the English a people who bore misfortune with passion or with gloom.

1999 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 22 Apr. 54/3 The Ruthenians are a part of the family of east Slavic peoples.

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    The downvote is possibly because this has all been covered before. / I'm not sure that 'suppletion' (tall / taller but bad / worse) covers the use of unrelated lexemes to cover singular and plural referents. //// I see that OP has removed the request for a list. Aug 15, 2020 at 16:35
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    I downvoted because you should have written "the plural of person is persons or people" (with "people" being the more common plural in modern usage). In contexts like "five people" or "how many people", we aren't dealing with "a collective noun 'people' that is in the singular but with plural agreement". "People" is just a plural noun in that kind of context, and it acts as the plural counterpart to "person": "one person, two people, three people..."
    – herisson
    Aug 15, 2020 at 21:40
  • @herisson you should have written "the plural of person is persons or people" It may be idiosyncratic but I do not believe that. I wrote People and person are different words., and that is true - they do not share a common root. It would be accurate to say People is often used to describe several persons but it is not the plural of person". You may see a difference between 1 "Persons found trespassing will be prosecuted" and 2 "People found trespassing will be prosecuted".
    – Greybeard
    Aug 15, 2020 at 21:59
  • "go" and "went" don't share a common root either but it's standard to refer to "went" as the past tense of "go". The concept of suppletion (mentioned in Laurel's answer) is all about word-forms that do not share a common root coming to be used as different forms of the same word
    – herisson
    Aug 15, 2020 at 22:16
  • I agree with you but do not see the parallel.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 15, 2020 at 22:39

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