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Frustrating English Grammar: Which Is Correct: "in-Person" or "in Person"?

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Are you ever confused by "in person" or "in-person?"

Many of us become confused, but these rules can help you decide.

Alive and in Person, Personally, and in a Personal Appearance

When using the English language, do you ever have problems deciding whether in person or in-person is correct? Many of us do so, but these rules can help you figure it out.

"In person" and "in-person" are both correct, as long as the first phrase is used as an adverb and the second phrase is used as an adjective.

  • Remember that an adverb modifies a verb, adding enhancing information such as how or when.
  • Remember that an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun by modifying it with information that tells what kind of.

In Person (As an Adverb)

In this sentence, we are using our phrase as an adverb, because it tells how something was done, is being done, or will be done.

For example:

I do not trust the market's delivery system, so I am going to the store in person.

(How will I go? I will go in person.)

If you say you'll go "in person" you mean you'll go personally rather than sending somebody or something else to represent you.

Synonyms for "In Person"

Synonyms for "in person" are personally, myself, and in the flesh, as in:

  • He applied for the job in person, or
  • I couldn't believe it, but there she was, in the flesh.
  • Oh my goodness, he was right there before my eyes!

In-Person (As an Adjective)

In-person: this hyphenated word is an adjective, a word that tells us "what kind of."

Many adjectives are hyphenated words, but writing guides caution us from using too many hyphenated words as adjectives, and against stringing many words together as a single hyphenated word adjective.

For example, a "thicker-than-thread-but-thinner-than-rope" cord. Usually, we have an English word that means the same things as the string of words connected with hyphens, although not always, and the long string still can be used for comic effect, as needed.

In-person: (adjective): an appearance carried out personally in someone else's physical presence; "we'll have in-person negotiations" or "I'd love an in-person consultation."

Synonyms for "In-Person"

Synonyms for "in-person" are personal, private, or face-to-face.

Adverb vs. Adjective

Remember that an adverb modifies a verb, adding enhancing information such as how or when.

Remember that an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun by modifying it with information that tells what kind of.

What Is a "Person" (n.) in the English Language?

The term "person" means many different things depending on the context you use:

1. Biology: a human being, whether man, woman, or child: "The car seats six persons." A human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing. (Note: many Native American groups denote all living creatures to be persons; e.g. frog people (frogs), butterfly people, etc., including animals not recognized as clan symbols.)

2. Sociology: a single human being, especially in regard to that person's social relationships and behavioral patterns as taught by the culture.

3. Philosophy: a sentient, self-conscious, or rational being.

4. The self or individual personality of a human being. ("You ought not to generalize, but to consider the person you are dealing with.")

5. The body of a living human being, sometimes extended to include clothing. ("He had no money on his person.")

6. The external part of the body. ("Her person is beautiful.")

7. A character or role in literature or in a film.

8. An individual of distinction or importance (see Personage, below).

9. A person not entitled to social recognition or respect. (More like a non-person.)

10. Law: a human being (a natural person) or a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other recognized legal entity (an artificial person or juristic person) having legal rights and duties. In 2011, corporations that claim rights as people were a protest point with the movement known as Occupy Wall Street.

11. Grammar. In many languages, a concept applied to indicate the difference between the speaker of a statement and those to or about whom they speak. In English grammar, we have three persons in the pronouns as follows:

  1. First person is I and we
  2. Second person is you
  3. Third person is he, she, it, and they

Rules for using the three persons of English with verbs can be confusing.

12. Theology: any of the three manifestations of the Holy Trinity of Christian denominations: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

13. Idioms:

  • To be one's own person (in charge of oneself), to be free from restrictions, controls, or orders:
"Now that she's moved to college, she feels more like her own person (own boss)."
  • In person, in one's own bodily presence; personally:
"Come to the box office at 8:00 PM in person to purchase a concert ticket."

Synonyms

Person: individual, personage, a human being.

  • Person is the most commonly used reference word: "He's an average person."
  • Individual is a single human being alone or one member of a larger group. "Not everyone, just one individual."
  • Personage is used (sometimes ironically) to refer to an outstanding or illustrious person: "The emperor is a distinguished personage."
  • Note: Party can also mean an individual person, especially in contract law.

© 2007 Patty Inglish

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Comments 6 comments

JazLive profile image

JazLive 9 years ago from Decatur

I am not sure, just taking a poke at this challenge.

in person (original being is expected).

Ms. Dollywood greets guest in person and escorts them to the reception hall.

in-person (an unidentified being expected to respond/perform) Keep your company-tag visible so our in-person can see the company logo.


Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago

"in-person" is usually an adjective, so the second sentence could read something like: " Keep your company-tag visible so our in-person representative can see the company logo." BUT, the way you use "in-person" makes it a NOUN and I can see where that would be appropriate as an idiom as well. In fact, I've heard it used that way by some UK speakers. Good job!!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Got it: in-person is an adjective and in person is an adverb. I love hyphenating my words a little too much. :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

English is tricky to many people! I also use too many hyphens.


shelpeare profile image

shelpeare 2 years ago

Thanks for the clarification. In my country I cannot say that I have seen the hyphenated form much. Maybe we use another word to say the same thing.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

The English language can be confusing with its variations among countries. You may indeed have another word. Thanks for commenting, shelpeare!

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    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,760 Followers
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