I find that the word public is regarded as a collective noun and the subsequent verb is said to be used in singular form.
Then why is not people a collective noun though the meaning of the two words is quite same?

  • I think this might help. When thinking of public in the sense of "people in general", try to think of it as a set of items, as opposed to thinking of people as items. Apr 11, 2015 at 14:34
  • 2
    These two words mean similar things, and they have a good deal of overlap; but that is not quite equivalent to saying that they mean the same thing. Moreover, neither is used exclusively as a collective or count noun. Each has a wide range of uses, as you will soon learn if you look them up in a variety of dictionaries. Apr 11, 2015 at 14:34
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    People can be a collective noun: see this answer, especially the part under the horizontal line, and this answer. Public can take either a singular or plural noun, depending on whether the speaker is considering 'the public' as a group or as each individual within 'the public' (similar to 'team' and many other words').
    – user6951
    Apr 11, 2015 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


A "collective noun" in this sense is a grammatical term not a semantic one. So-called "collective nouns" can take either plural or singular verb agreement:

  • The team are asking for you.
  • The team is asking for you.

People meaning merely a number of persons cannot be used in the same way. It is always plural and cannot take singular verb agreement:

  • People are asking for you.

  • *People is asking for you. (ungrammatical - singular verb agreement)


There is the other meaning of people meaning something similar to nation or cultural group, however, which could be considered a collective noun. (See StoneyB and δοῦλος's comments below). Notice that this has distinct and regular singular and plural forms:

  • The Berbers are a proud people.

  • The different peoples of the Northern hemisphere.

As with other collective nouns, the singular form may be used as the subject of a sentence but occur with plural verb forms:

  • A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves.

Much less commonly it can also occur with singular verb agreement:

  • As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well.

Hope this is helpful!


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