Getting into the language rules of singular and plural nouns has never been an easy feat, and it can make learning the language much harder for anyone interested. There doesn’t seem to be one strict set of rules. Sometimes you add an “s” to the end of a word; other times, you have to change the word completely. Then there’s the final case, where the word stays the same, both singular and plural. It’s a nightmare.
Is It People Is Or Are?
The correct version is “people are” if you’re referring to the plural noun of “people.” You’ll almost always refer to “people” as a plural noun, so “people are” is the usual way to say it. However, there is sometimes a case where saying “people” is used in a singular sense. In these cases, “people are” is still the correct way to say the phrase. “People is” is incorrect.
People As The Plural Of “Person”
The relationship between “people” and “person” is one of those tricky plural rules we talked about. Whereas sometimes you can add an “s” to the end of a word, like “frog” and “frogs,” sometimes you have to change the way the word sounds completely. The singular noun “person” becomes “people” when there are multiple people present. If it sounds confusing, that’s generally because it is.
There aren’t really any rules or tips that we can give you that might help you understand the pluralization of “person” better. We can only say that you need to practice speaking in the singular noun “person” and the plural noun “people” until it’s embedded into your brain!
People As A Singular Noun
So, in what sense can “people” be a singular noun? Since we’ve already explained the “people” is a plural word, it surely can’t be singular, too. Well, that’s where you’re wrong, and the English language strikes again with yet another head-scratcher! When we use “people” as a singular noun, we often refer to all the people inside a civilization or a tribe. That includes all the men, women, children, and everything in between.
- They are a great people.
If you’re talking about all the people in a tribe or nation being “great,” then the sentence above makes complete grammatical sense. However, it’s not common to come across “people” as a singular noun. In fact, you’ll probably never need to use it yourself, so if you don’t fully understand it, don’t worry too much!
Examples Of How To Use People Are
Now that we’ve covered both the singular and plural form, it’s time to take us back to when we’re using the more common plural. When we use a plural, the word “are” typically has to follow for the rest of the clause to make sense. That’s why “people are” is the only acceptable way to say this phrase. Therefore, any use of “is” is incorrect and won’t be effective if you’re trying to convey a solid grasp of the English language.
- These people are driving me crazy.
- The people are stronger than they look.
- Japanese people are really good at that event.
- Friendly people are the best people to be around.
- People are hopeless when left to their own devices.
As you can see, in each of these cases, “people” is used in the plural form. There is no way that saying “people is” would make sense in any of these sentences, which is why we can’t use it.
Examples Of How To Use People Is
As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, saying “people is” is a grammatically incorrect version of “people are.” It’s just a common mixup between the plural form “people,” and the singular verb “is.” If you’ve found yourself using “people is” in any context, changing the “is” to an “are” will make it correct.
Which Other Words Are Both A Plural Noun And A Singular Noun?
There are plenty of other English words that follow a similar trend as “people” do. You’re able to refer to them in both the singular and plural for different reasons. If you refer to them in the singular form, they are followed by “is.” If you refer to them in plural form, they are followed by “are.” Most of the time, you’ll be talking about groups of collectives that can be both singular and plural.
Some examples include the United States, where the country is a collection of fifty states. You can refer to it in the singular sense, where the United States is a country:
- The United States is my home.
Or in the plural sense, where you’re referring to the states themselves:
- The United States are all governed differently.
The same can be said for other collectives, like band names:
- The Bee Gees is my favorite band.
- The Bee Gees are all good friends.
How To Remember If I Should Use People Is Or Are
Luckily, the tip for remembering this one is fairly easy. Since saying “people is” is completely incorrect and you’ll never need to use the singular form of “people” followed by the word “is,” you can disregard it. Even if you do happen to come across the singular form of “people” sometimes, you’ll notice that it’s never followed by “is.” It’s instead said like “a great people” or “a good people.”
So, our tip to you is simple. Erase “people is” from your memory. It’ll never work for you. “People” is a plural noun, even if you’re referring to a country group (“American people”). You’ll only ever need to use “people are.”
Quiz: Have You Mastered People Are Or Is?
Let’s finish up with a quick quiz to see what you’ve learned. This one should be a breeze if you’ve been paying attention!
- These (A. people are / B. people is) not my friends.
- When (A. people are / B. people is) unkind, I ignore them.
- British (A. people are / B. people is) fun.
- French (A. people are / B. people is) really proud of their heritage.
- Mean (A. people are / B. people is) not worth your time.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.