Is it grammatically correct to say...

He makes others want to be a better person.

If so, what about...

He makes others want to be better persons.

This sounds a bit off to me, but it seems grammatically correct. If I use 'better people' instead, it's sounding much off by becoming somewhat distant/impersonal, so I'm not considering that.

If both ways are correct, what's the difference?

  • 1
    Grammar is a low bar to cross. Both are grammatical.
    – Lawrence
    Dec 10, 2020 at 5:32
  • 2
    People does not sound distant or impersonal - it's the word we normally use when referring to human beings in the plural. Persons is only used in certain formal contexts, for instance a notice stating how many may safely travel in a lift (elevator). Dec 10, 2020 at 9:11
  • I would steer clear of persons.
    – Jim Simson
    Dec 12, 2020 at 5:28
  • In fact, I would steer clear of person as well. Is there anything wrong with: He makes others want to be better.
    – Jim Simson
    Dec 12, 2020 at 5:33
  • 1
    He makes people want to be better. Why use persons, and why repeat it? Who else are you talking about? Dec 13, 2020 at 3:16

1 Answer 1


I think that grammatically it is better to say

He makes others want to be better persons (although people would be more common).

Others and persons are connected to each other and should be both in the plural: The others will be better persons/people

However, the established idiom is to be a better person and the link gives other possible versions of it. I think you can avoid your problem by saying:

He makes one want to be a better person.

  • If 'makes others want to be a better person' is wrong, then what about 'makes others want to be better as a person,' or should we be using 'persons' in this statement, too?
    – VKBoy
    Dec 13, 2020 at 2:02
  • Very good question. Here the singular would be perfectly fine. Although better as persons is not grammatically incorrect, Google ngram will show you that "as a better person" is used much more widely.
    – fev
    Dec 13, 2020 at 7:39

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