In French, the two most common ways to say people are: gens and personnes. What is the difference? In short, gens is used for people in general and personnes usually refers to specific individuals. This post will explain gens vs. personnes in detail with example sentence and audio. Keep reading.
both mean people
Gens vs. personnes in French
We’ll start with gens. Firstly, it’s important to point out that gens is always plural. You must always say les gens and never le gen or un gen. Thus, les gens translates best to “the people” as in the people in a place such as country or city.
Here are two example sentences which illustrate this point.
C’est un beau pays mais je n’aime pas les gens.
It’s a beautiful country but I don’t like the people.
Les gens dans ce pays fument de moins en moins.
The people in this country are smoking less and less.
As mentioned, personne most commonly refers to individuals or individual human beings. Unlike gens, personne can be both singular and plural: la personne and les personnes.
Using gens in both of these example sentences would be wrong.
Il y a trois personnes dans la salle de classe.
There are three people in the classroom.
Combien de personnes vont venir ce soir ?
How many people are going to come tonight?
When refering to yourself as a person, use personne. For example:
Je suis une personne responsable.
I am a responsible person.
The word personne is always used in a negation form to mean “nobody” or “anybody”. We explain this usage on our page of French negation rules. For example:
- Je ne vois personne. I don’t see anybody.
There is a third and less frequently used way of saying people: le peuple. Use peuple to refer to “the French people”, for example. In this example sentence, le people could also be expressed as les Français (the French).
Le peuple français vit bien.
French people live well.
Et voilà ! Now you have a solid grasp of gens vs. personnes in French. Now take a look at some more of our lesssons including an vs. année (two ways of saying year in French), the expression soupe au lait (quick to anger) and the useful reflexive verb se débrouiller (to manage, to get by).