Dictionary.com Word FAQs
Can I use the word peoples instead of persons?
People is a singular noun meaning 'a body of persons sharing a culture' as in "As a people, the Anasazi were known for their basket-making." Its plural is peoples as in "the many peoples of South America." When your meaning is 'human beings', then people is plural and there is no corresponding singular form. Some strict grammarians say that people is a collective noun that should not be used as a substitute for persons when referring to a specific number of individuals. They are saying that people is general and persons is specific. This rule would mean you should say "Ten persons were invited to dinner" (not "ten people"). But people has always been used that way and few make the distinction anymore. Some grammarians consider persons to be better for small, specific numbers. The word person has replaced -man as the second element of many occupational compounds such as chairperson, deliveryperson, and spokesperson.