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"My people need" or "My people needs" ?





Peterssidan
When a king speaks of his people, is it singular of plural?

1. My people need me.
2. My people needs me.

My first intuition was that it should be like number 2 (my intuition is often wrong) but when I searched most of the results seem to suggest that "people" should be plural.

On Wiktionary I found this:
Quote:
3. A group of persons regarded as being employees, followers, companions or subjects of a ruler.
  • 1611, Old Testament, King James Version, 2 Samuel 8:15:
      And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.
  • 1952, Old Testament, Revised Standard Version, Thomas Nelson & Sons, Isaiah 1:3:
      The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.

This seems to suggest that that it can be singular because it's seen as a group, but if I extend the sentence...

1. My people need me and I'm not going to let them down.
2. My people needs me and I'm not going to let it down.

...number 2 doesn't sound right anymore. To me a mix sounds best...

3. My people needs me and I'm not going to let them down.

...but this seems to be grammatically inconsistent.
Ankhanu
It is a weird one, but it is My people need me and I'm not going to let them down. It is a mixture of numbering, with the people referring to a singular collective, but then referring to the individuals that comprise that collective, rather than the collective itself.
Peterssidan
Thank you for clearing that up. What about the shorter sentences? Are both "My people need me" and "My people needs me" correct, or should it still be need without an s?

UPDATE: I found this very interesting discussion on the subject. It seems like most people are uncomfortable using people in singular, but that it can be correct in some situations. One example they bring up is "This people shares characteristics with certain inhabitants of central Asia".

Singular seems to be used mostly in situations where there are more than one group of people, but the explanatory text that precedes the example mentioned above says "When people means ”the entire body of persons who consitute a community, tribe, nation or other group by virtue of a common culture, history, etc.” it is used as a singular, with the plural peoples". This definition seems to match "my people" when used by a king to refer to the whole people of his kingdom. If, on the other hand, the king was out on the battlefield and used my people to refer to the people in his army (or to the people in his court) the word should obviously be treated as plural.
deanhills
Peterssidan wrote:
"This people shares characteristics with certain inhabitants of central Asia".
I'm going by instincts here.

I would use a completely different word. "This population" in preference to "this people". Population is a collection of a specific group of people. I'd use it in the singular - population is.

"This population shares characteristics ......"
rx9876
Sometime I don't know which is correct, I just follow the crowd.
I use netspeak to check how and how many people write the sentences.

For example
"my people need" has 1200 counts.
http://www.netspeak.org/#query=my+people+need

"my people needs" has 0 count.
http://www.netspeak.org/#query=my+people+needs

The another way to check this kind of sentences,
we could query "my people ?".
It shows all the sentence.
Most are like
my people go
my people were
my people have
Some are
my people is
my people has
Peterssidan
rx9876 wrote:
Sometime I don't know which is correct, I just follow the crowd.

The problem with following the crowd is that whether or not it should be treated as singular or plural depends on the situation. In most situations it will be treated as plural but that doesn't mean it should be treated as such in this specific situation.
SonLight
"people" is a collective noun. It is the usual plural of person, so there will always be two or more persons or you don't have people. If you think of a group of people, like you would talk about a herd of cattle, then it can be used in a singular manner. Substitute the word "group" or "group of people" for people to see if that makes sense.

When people is treated as singular, it can have a plural, "peoples". If I talk about the peoples of the Earth, I am presumably talking about all the different ethnic groups. I can say almost the same thing and say "people of the Earth". In that case I am giving you a subtle clue that I am treating each person as the same, instead of contrasting them by culture or language or whatever.
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