0

I'm reading The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and there's the following phrase: "They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders."

However, I've googled a rule: Plural nouns can be used with the definite article or no article at all; to use an indefinite article would be incorrect.

Does it mean that "people" here is a singular noun? Is this because the phrase refers to people as a tribe/community?

3
  • Yes. A people has a meaning distinct from people on its own - it means a nation or ethnic group. Apr 5 at 7:31
  • 1
    Use a dictionary. People: people noun [ countable ] all the men, women, and children who live in a particular country, or who have the same culture or language" Cambridge Dictionary. Apr 5 at 7:32
3

You're right in thinking that it refers to ‘people as a tribe/community’. In this case, ‘a people’ means ‘the entire group of people (that usually has something in common e.g. language, culture, ethnicity etc)’.

I recently read the first chapter in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal and came across the same usage of ‘a people’:

Before the Anglo-Saxon invasions (§2), the language (or languages) spoken by the native inhabitants of the British Isles belonged to the Celtic family, introduced by a people who had come to the islands around the middle of the first millennium ad [...]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.