A friend of mine learning English misused "peoples". While I was able to explain to her how to use "person", "people" and "peoples" (I decided not to mention "persons"), I realised that I didn't have a clue why English uses the "person" and "people" the way it does.

Ok, first check whether ELU had already answered the "why" aspect. Nope, nothing. Google? No luck either.

Ask a question? Not so fast. If I don't provide a link to a dictionary, then I'm going to get closed as being available in a "commonly-available reference". Ok, link to the OED entries about "people" and "person", and show how they don't mention the relationship with each other. I should be ok now, right?

No. My question about why English uses "person" and "people" got marked as a duplicate of questions about when to use "person" and "people", and got dupehammered.

Next time, to force the person closing it to use primarily opinion-based instead (which doesn't attract the dupehammer) ("The precise reason why we do this is probably unanswerable"), should I pre-empt claims of being a duplicate by linking to an existing ELU question and spelling out in words of one syllable how it is not a duplicate?

  • 2
    You wrote more on this meta post than in your question though. And you were wrong to avoid "persons" because it definitely exists and is used in official documents. "Why" questions are usually very difficult to answer, E.g. Why does English still say one child but two children? Why not two childs? It's comprehensible, and logical. Furthermore, your question avoids the elephant in the room i.e. two persons. Why?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 5:54

1 Answer 1


As for this specific case, I would deem that question as "related," but not a duplicate. I've cast my reopen vote.

As for your general question:

Should I pre-empt claims of being a duplicate by linking to an existing ELU question and explaining how it is not a duplicate?

I think that's always a good idea, for several reasons:

  • It shows you've done your research.
  • It might thwart dupe-voting when the questions are more related to each other as opposed to true duplicates of each other.
  • By explaining why your question is not a duplicate, you'll clarify the matter you want addressed, which could ultimately help you get better, more pertinent answers.
  • It spares the community from a long discussion in the comments about potential duplication.
  • The links might be helpful to others who are interested in reading more about the issue. Imagine someone finds your question two years from now, and is curious about this whole person/people issue. It's certainly not going to hurt to add a footnote saying, "I found this related question on ELU, but it doesn't really address the core of my question, because..." Now, instead of your answers being isolated, there's a cross-reference to a related question.
  • Experienced users often add such links in the comments; it only makes sense for the O.P. to do that on their own accord if they found a similar, related question. By doing so, you're making your question (and the website as a whole) more useful to future users and curiosity seekers.
  • The link might also help prevent a duplicate question down the road. Assume someone asks Question A in 2012. Someone else asks Question B (a related question) in 2014. In 2016, someone comes along with Question A in mind. They do a search, and Question B comes up. If Question B also has a link back to Question A, that might help this future user get the answer without asking a duplicate question.
  • I think if OP had posted links to one or more of the existing questions about person, people and their respective "plural" forms, I'd probably still have closevoted (perhaps as Opinion-based, rather than Duplicate). Purely my own opinion, but I suspect the way it has been treated will probably end up with OP's question getting reopened (it's got 3 reopen votes already). But even though my POB vote wouldn't have unilaterally closed the Q, I bet four others would have quickly supported it, and it would never have been in the running for reopening. Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 14:28
  • @Fumble - My answer was meant to address the general question, not to start a debate about whether or not this particular question was justifiably closed.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 21:54
  • My comment was primarily responding to the first sentence of your answer (obviously I think that specific question is an actual dup, not just "related"). But I upvoted because in the more general context I agree with everything else you've written about the desirability of an OP explicitly including links to "related" answers. That particular Q is presumably still a "live" issue, but if in fact it doesn't get reopened I'd happily post a bounty to an earlier Q on the grounds that it merits more attention (specifically, to the Why issue). Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 12:20

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