16

I was translating a sentence for school en Español and I came across the word "people." I looked it up on Google Translate and it gave me "personas" and also "gente." What is the difference between the two, and the use case for each of these nouns?

  • There is a third translation for People: Pueblo (in the sense of nation) for example "One of the guiding mantras of the twentieth century was the self-determination of peoples" or "People's Republic of China" – DeStrangis Jan 28 '13 at 11:26
  • Note that gente does not have a plural form, even though some people use it. It is wrong and may make you sound illiterate. – alonso.torres Feb 11 '14 at 22:20
  • 2
    @alonso.torres that is wrong. Could you indicate where on lema.rae.es/drae/?val=gente does it specify that gente does not have a plural? "gentes" may not be common, but it can be used as "pueblos" (groups of people): "Los pueblos del oriente" == "las gentes del oriente". Uncommon, but not incorrect. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Apr 4 '14 at 14:45
  • 1
    @JATerroba Yes. I know. And it's a valid plural of a plural. A squad is a group of people. You can have many squads. Where does it say you can't have a plural of a plural? If you can think of it as "one entity" you can think of "many entities". – Adriano Varoli Piazza Sep 2 '14 at 19:20
  • 1
    Miguel explains it better below. But I'll give it a shot. 'Gente' is akin to 'people' in English. You can use 'Gentes' the same way as you would use 'Peoples' in English, 'Peoples' is not the same as 'Persons', they describe different things. And using 'squad' as an example doesn't really work, since a squad is a singular entity, composed of many units, but it remains a single thing. People is a plurality of entities by itself. If you want to say 'a people', then you're already using another definition of the word, one that can be pluralized. Same deal in Spanish. – J A Terroba Sep 4 '14 at 18:12
18

The distinction is easier to see when you consider things in terms of countability. In this sense, personas is the plural of persona, refers to many people, and can be used when counting. On the other hand gente is a singular noun, refers to a group of people or many people in general and usually isn't used when specifing numbers.

Example in terms of counting:

○   "Hay veinte personas en esa casa." => "There are twenty (individual) persons in that house."

X   "Hay veinte gente en esa casa." => "There is (a whole of) twenty people in that house."

Example in terms of not counting:

○   "Toda la gente está esperando pacientemente." => "All (of) the people (as a whole) are waiting patiently."


One last thing to note is that while gente isn't interchangeable with personas, the opposite isn't necessarily true. In cases where emphasis or more formality is desired, personas can be used without specifying a number. Thus in the second example, the sentence could also be written as:

○   "Todas las personas están esperando pacientemente." => "All (of) the (individual) persons are waiting patiently."

This is perfectly valid, but sounds a bit awkward for daily use. Regional usage will differ in this fact, I'm sure. That said, personas can make a good fallback if you're unsure whether or not you should use gente.

I hope this helps! :)

  • I just wanted to point out that "Todas las personas están esperando pacientemente" (marked there as wrong) is a perfectly valid Spanish sentence. – Telaclavo Apr 12 '12 at 14:55
  • @Telaclavo It was never my intention to make it seem like that sentence was incorrect. I reorganized the answer a bit and I think it's cleared things up. Anyways, feel free to edit it more if you still don't think it's clear enough. :) – Miguel Apr 12 '12 at 19:48
  • @Miguel I said it because there was an "X" just before the sentence, and thought that it could mislead someone. Thanks. – Telaclavo Apr 12 '12 at 20:48
  • +1 I couldn't have explained it better. Good answer. – alonso.torres Feb 11 '14 at 23:30
2

Gente is called a "collective" noun, for "people," in general.

Persona(s), on the other hand, refer to INDIVIDUAL "people."

0

Creo y espero no equivocarme, que la palabra "gente" siempre se ha referido a una multitud o a mas de una persona. Si yo digo, tu, (o en mi caso) vos sos una buena persona, sería, para mi modo de ver las cosas y mas que nada y MUY importante, lo que me enseñaron en la escuela, es mas que equivocado decirte que vos sos buena "gente".

  • Traté de editarlo, no pude... – Rodrigo May 2 '16 at 20:45
0

I'm not so sure that any of these examples are crystal clear, so let me give it a try:

Persona/s= An individual or several individuals of the human race. Example: Hablé con una persona de la organización (I spoke with A PERSON from the organización).

Gente= a set of "personas" forming a group. Example: Hablé con la gente de la organización (I spoke with THE PEOPLE from the organization).

Persona/s are individual people, or several people, but in principle you could count them up. So saying "me gusta las personas aqui" (I like the people here) is wrong. If you like a person "here," then you could for example say "me gusta una persona se llama Beatriz (I like a person named Beatriz. That's not wrong, but it sounds stilted.

Gente are a group of people. You couldn't literally count them up yourself. You could say "me gusta la gente aqui" (I like the people here). Not one person but everybody collectively.

-2

I happen to speak French, so the differences are obvious to me.

In English, we use the word people for different meanings:

Few people (individuals or persons) came to my party. In Spanish I would use personas.

People (in general, humans) like ice cream. In Spanish, I would use gentes.

The people (of a nation) voted for independence. In Spanish, I would use pueblo.

  • 3
    Por favor, date cuenta de que este sitio es sobre el idioma español, y esta respuesta no clarifica para nada ni ,gente’ ni ‘personas’. Comparar con otros idiomas está bien, pero tienes que clarificar las diferencias de las palabras ‘gente’ y ‘personas’ – Diego Apr 20 '18 at 20:56

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.