In Person or In-Person?

There has been ongoing debate around the usage of the compound words “in person” versus “in-person”. While they may seem interchangeable on the surface, there is an important grammatical distinction between the two. In this article, we will explore the difference between these phrases through example scenarios and definitions of their parts of speech.

Understanding the Difference Between these Compound Words

“In Person” as an Adverb

When used as “in person”, it functions as an adverb that modifies a verb. An adverb provides details about an action, such as how, when, or where something occurred.

For example:

“I decided to physically meet with the client in person to discuss the project details.”

In this sentence, “in person” is describing the manner in which the meeting took place – it was done face-to-face rather than virtually. The adverb is modifying the verb “meet” to specify that the interaction was done in a bodily present manner.

Another example:

“The CEO will apologize to the employees in person for the miscommunication.”

Here, “in person” modifies the verb “apologize” to indicate the apology will be delivered in a direct way with the CEO physically present, not through some indirect method like email.

“In-Person” as an Adjective

On the other hand, “in-person” functions as an adjective when hyphenated. An adjective describes or modifies a noun.

For example:

“We prefer in-person interactions with our customers whenever possible.”

In this sentence, “in-person” is describing the type of interactions – ones that take place with people bodily present to each other rather than interacting virtually or through some indirect medium. The adjective “in-person” is modifying the noun “interactions”.

Another example:

“Please RSVP if you will be attending the meeting in-person or joining us virtually.”

Here, “in-person” is used as an adjective to describe the type of attendance or participation at the event – either being physically present or joining remotely.

when to use “in person” vs “in-person”

To summarize the distinction, use “in person” as an adverb when you want to modify a verb to specify that an action occurred with parties physically present to each other.

Use “in-person” as an adjective when you want to describe a noun, such as referring to interactions, meetings, experiences, etc. as being of the type where bodily presence is involved rather than virtual or remote participation.

Proper usage is important for precision in language. Not distinguishing “in person” as an adverb from “in-person” as an adjective could lead to grammatical errors or vague communication. Understanding the difference in parts of speech helps ensure words are used accurately to clearly convey intended meaning.

Don’t get confused and see whether Well Deserved or Well-Deserved are the right compound words.

Examples that Demonstrate the Distinction

Let’s look at some scenarios and see how using “in person” versus “in-person” would make a difference in meaning:

The first scenario is scheduling a meeting:

Incorrect: “I prefer to schedule our weekly team meetings in-person.”

Correct: “I prefer to schedule our weekly team meetings in person.”

Since this is modifying the verb “schedule”, it should use “in person” as the adverb, not “in-person” as the adjective.

Another scenario is discussing participation options:

Incorrect: “You have the option to in person or join virtually.”

Correct: “You have the option to attend in-person or join virtually.”

In this case, the two options are functioning as adjectives describing the type of attendance or participation. So “in-person” is the appropriate choice rather than the adverb “in person”.

Let’s look at one more with apologizing:

Correct: “I will in person apologize for the mistake.”

Incorrect: “I will apologize in-person for the mistake.”

Since this modifies the verb “apologize”, using the adverb form “in person” maintains grammatical accuracy over using “in-person” as an incorrect adjective.

As these examples illustrate, properly distinguishing between “in person” and “in-person” helps convey intended meaning through correct grammar. Not observing the difference in parts of speech could potentially cause ambiguity or confusion in communication.


In summarizing the key differences:

  • “In person” functions as an adverb that modifies verbs
  • “In-person” acts as an adjective describing nouns
  • Using the accurate part of speech – adverb or adjective – is important for grammatical precision
  • Proper usage avoids potential issues from incorrect or vague word choices
  • Distinguishing these compound words enhances clear communication

With an understanding of these compound terms as distinct parts of speech, speakers and writers can choose the right form – “in person” or “in-person” – based on whether a verb needs modifying or a noun requires description. Mastering such language nuances helps ensure ideas come across effectively to readers through grammatically sound expression.