'Personal' vs 'Personnel': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on August 5, 2023

If you are looking for an explanation of the difference between 'personal' vs. 'personnel,' you came to the right place!

Here is the short answer: 

  • 'Personal' is an adjective and noun that means affecting or relating to a specific person. 
  • 'Personnel' is a noun that means a group of people usually employed at the same place or working on the same mission. 

These terms are so similar in sound, spelling, and meaning that they confuse many writers. Learning more about these terms should help you understand and remember their differences. So, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Personal' vs. 'Personnel?'

While 'personal' and 'personnel' sound similar, they have different meanings, spellings, and usages.

  • The primary definition of 'personal' is a noun that means related to a specific person.
  • You can also use 'personal' to refer to a publicly posted message intended for a specific person.

The word is often used by people speaking in the first person when they are referring to something that is meant for them alone, for example:

  • Personal belongings
  • Personal pizza
  • Personal chef
  • Personal account
  • Personal feelings

The latter term is a noun that means a group of people who work together for a particular company. An organization often uses it to refer to its staff.

When and How to Use 'Personal' vs. 'Personnel'

Now that you have a good idea about the difference between these terms, let's take a closer look at when and how to use them.

  • Use 'personal' when you are talking about something that is yours.

For example, you could say:

That is my personal junk food stash. So, please don't touch it!

  • Use 'personal' when you are talking about an item that is meant for one person to eat.

So, you might say:

Order a personal pizza if you do not want the same toppings as everyone else. 

  • Use 'personal' to refer to a heartfelt message directed at a specific person.

As an example, you could say:

The personal message he sent meant so much. I can't believe he took the time to address me personally. 

  • Use 'personnel' when you are talking about a workforce.

For example, you might say:

The personnel are incredible. They all work together to get the job done, even when tight deadlines and conditions are harsh.

  • Use 'personnel' to address an entire workforce.

As an example, you might see a sign that says:

All personnel must check in at the front desk before they enter restricted areas. 

Definition of 'Personal': What is the Meaning of 'Personal?'

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'personal' is an adjective defined as:

  • Relating to, of, or about a particular individual or person

It can also mean:

  • Done by one's self without assistance or intervention from anyone else
  • Communications carried out by individuals directly
  • Relating to the body
  • Relating to an individual's ideals, morals, beliefs, conduct, motive, or character
  • Being self-conscious and rational
  • Regarding the qualities of a person rather than abstract traits
  • Items constituting an individual's belongings
  • Made or intended for private or personal use

'Personal' can also be a noun that means:

  • A brief paragraph or story in a newspaper that addresses a specific group, individual, or matter
  • An ad in a unique column or section of the classified ads that are written to a specific person or on a topic that is personal to the writer

Synonyms of 'Personal'

  • Subjective
  • Individual
  • Private
  • Unique
  • Specific
  • Distinctive
  • Intimate
  • Privy
  • Custom
  • Customized
  • Special

Definition of 'Personnel': What is the Meaning of 'Personnel?'

The same resource defines 'personnel' as a noun that means:

  • A group of persons employed at a company, factory, or organization

It can also mean:

  • A department within an organization that handles personnel or human resources

Synonyms of 'Personnel'

  • Staff
  • Pool
  • Workers
  • Manpower
  • Crew
  • Labor force
  • Workforce
  • Employees
  • Team
  • Squad
  • Laborers

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Personal' vs. 'Personnel'

Next, let's look at the pronunciations of these two words. They are very similar, so knowing exactly how to pronounce them is essential. Otherwise, you may accidentally use the wrong term.

So, here is a quick pronunciation guide you can use. 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'personal':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'personnel':


Sample Sentences Using 'Personal' vs. 'Personnel'

Here are some sample sentences using these terms. They will help you understand how to use 'personal' vs. 'personnel.'


  • The kids loved making personal meals at the cooking party.
  • Those are my personal belongings. Please do not use them.
  • I have a few questions if you want to get personal about things.
  • The author wrote a story that was very personal to her.
  • You need to lock your door if you do not want them getting into your personal space.


  • Most well-performing companies appreciate their personnel.
  • The personnel department will help you complete your new hire paperwork.
  • We are hiring personnel. If you are interested, you should submit an application.
  • Personnel members cannot take business supplies home.
  • There is a personnel entrance at the back of the building.


  • Our personnel department is dedicated to helping our employees be successful in their work and personal lives.
  • The manager posted a sign saying, 'Personnel are not authorized to make personal phone calls at work.'

Review of the Difference Between 'Personal' vs. 'Personnel'

Before you go, let's review the difference between 'personal' vs. 'personnel': 

  • 'Personal' is an adjective or noun that means specific to an individual or made for individual use. 
  • 'Personnel' is a noun for a group of people who make up a workforce.

Hopefully, after reading this entire post, you will remember the difference between these terms. However, if you get mixed up, you can always return to this guide for a quick review.

You can also learn about similar terms in the confusing words section here. Each post contains a quick and detailed explanation of the terms' differences with definitions, usage tips, and pronunciations.

So, whether you are an aspiring writer or an English language learner, you can use these guides to expand your vocabulary and learn the correct ways to use popular terms.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

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.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.