‘People Are' or 'People Is': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 17, 2023

Choosing between 'people are' or 'people is' confuses some, especially those learning English as a second language. So, I will explain the difference between the two in this guide with definitions, usage tips, sample sentences, and grammar rules.

Are you in a hurry?

If so, here is a short answer: 

  • 'People are' is always the grammatically correct term to use. 
  • 'People is' is a grammar error; therefore, you should never use it. 

Stick around to find out why the first term is correct. Or, bookmark this page and come back later to learn this important lesson.

Which is Correct, 'People Are' or 'People Is?'

As I mentioned, only one of these terms is grammatically correct. The second contains a grammar error; using is and people together is rarely right. In English, are and is are the plural and singular forms of the verb be. People is the plural form of person. So, you pair people with are, making 'people are' correct in most cases.

I will cover the rare occasion that 'people is' is correct further down. But, for most practical purposes, the former term is accurate, and the latter is a grammatical error.

How Do You Know Whether to Use 'Are' or 'Is?'

Are and is are both versions of the verb be. Be is a commonly used verb that has several forms, including:

  • Is - Singular second person present tense
  • Are - Plural second and third person present tense
  • Am - Singular first person present tense
  • Was - Singular first and second person past tense
  • Were - Plural second and third person past tense

You always pair a plural verb with a plural noun. So, when you use the plural noun, people, you always pair it with are or were.

  • If people are currently doing something, you would say, 'people are.'

For example, you could say:

                    People are coming from all over the world to attend this convention. 

  • If people did something in the past, you would use 'people were.'

For example, I might say:

The people were all over the place. 

  • Use is if you were talking about one person or if you were referencing the word people.

For example, you may hear someone say:

                    The word 'people' is the plural form of the noun 'person.'  

You use is because it is the singular form of 'be,' and the subject is the word people. You are referring to a single word in the present tense. So, you use the singular present tense form of be: is.

  • Use are when you are talking about two words or more words.

For example, you could say:

                  Places and people are nouns.

Definition of 'People Are': What Does 'People Are' Mean?

To define 'people are,' we will look at the definitions of people and are, the two words that make up the term.

Definition of People

People is a noun that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means:

  • More than one human being

It can also mean:

  • Members of an organization, cause, or family
  • A group of humans belonging to a specific class

In rare cases, people use it as a verb, meaning:

  • To staff or give people
  • To provide people to occupy an area or property

Synonyms of People

  • Beings
  • Public
  • World
  • Society
  • Masses
  • Humanity
  • Herd
  • Humankind
  • Mob
  • Group
  • Commoners
  • Community
  • Plebs
  • Plebians
  • Middle-class
  • Crowd
  • Populace
  • Subjects

Phrases Containing People

  • We the People
  • People pleaser
  • Village people
  • Proud people
  • For the people
  • In the name of the people
  • Beautiful people
  • Native people
  • By the people

Definition of Are

Are is a form of the verb be, defined as:

  • The second-person present tense form of be


  • 'Be' in the present plural tense
  • A unit of measurement equal to 100 square meters

Synonyms of Are

  • Exist
  • Alive
  • Survive
  • Persist
  • Last
  • Continue
  • Endure
  • Persevere

Phrases Containing Are

  • Are you serious
  • What are you talking about
  • How are you
  • Where are you
  • Who are you
  • Children are the future

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'People Are'

Learning to pronounce words helps you to remember them. It also makes you a more confident speaker and writer.

So, here is a quick pronunciation guide:

  • You pronounce 'people are' according to the phonetic spelling below:


Sample Sentences Using 'People Are'

Now that you understand why 'people are' is the correct term, look at these sample sentences to cement it in your brain.

  • People are excellent at coming together after a catastrophe. The world would be a better place if we were always that way.
  • Some people are better at getting what they want than others. It would be best if you practice asking for what you need.
  • Some people think AI will replace nearly all workers in the future. Others believe people are irreplaceable.
  • People are equally capable of good or evil. For example, some people commit themselves to helping others, while others drain everyone they know.
  • When people are facing challenges, they almost always rise to the occasion. However, some people are sucked into addictions and harmful situations for years, decades, or a lifetime.
  • People are less likely to throw caution to the wind if they are happy with their life.
  • In an organization, the people are the key to success. You have to care about your customers and staff. Otherwise, you will have high employee turnover and low customer loyalty.
  • People are capable of accomplishing incredible things in a short period when they apply themselves. However, some people are so lazy they never achieve a thing.
  • When people are mean, I just smile at them and go about my day.
  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news. People are going to get upset when they hear the story.

The Last Word on 'People Are' or 'People Is'

When it comes to remembering whether 'people are' or 'people is' is correct, remember this:

  • 'People are' is almost always grammatically correct. 
  • 'People is' is almost never grammatically correct. 
  • 'People are' is correct because 'people' is the plural form of person, and 'are' is the plural form of the verb be.

There are many confusing words in the English language. If you get mixed up on the correct usage of these or other terms, come back for a quick lesson.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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