Persons and people

Cable Guy   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 18:33 GMT
What is the difference between the words ''persons'' and ''people''.
Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 19:58 GMT
(1) A misanthrope is someone who hates people.
(2) A misanthrope is someone who hates persons.

Sentence (1) is okay.
Sentence (2) is awkward, perhaps even hard to understand.
mjd   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 23:20 GMT
"Persons" is usually seen in legal texts. For example, a law might read:

"All persons involved in the illegal trafficking of drugs will face federal prosecution."

While some grammarians might argue that "people" is not the plural of "persons," it is generally used that way outside of legal texts. When speaking colloquially, "people" is the way to go.
Jim   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 23:26 GMT
That's right. In law and certain formal contexts there is a distinction between "persons" and "people" whereas in ordinary English only "people" is used. They use "persons" to indicate that they are talking about individuals as oposed to a group in which case "people" is used.