As I understand, persona and gente are very similar to person and people in English. Persons/personas refers to multiple individuals, and gente refers to a group of people. Peoples/gentes may refer to multiple groups of people.
In English, "people" is sometimes a plural noun. "I saw four people."
It is thus both a plural or a singular noun. Here is another reference. http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/azar/grammar_ex/message_board/archive/articles/00048.htm
Sometimes one can see "peoples" to refer to disparate groups of "people" https://www.quora.com/Is-the-word-peoples-grammatically-correct-If-yes-what-context-is-it-used-in
In Arabic it can be used either way, but mostly as singular. Especially with past tense.
In simple present it would be:
Single collective group of people looking:ينظر القوم
A group of multiple individuals: القوم ينظرون
At the end of the day, I believe every language - although may share common roots with others- may has its' own set of rules. We should accept them as is, benefit from the common denominators and embrace the differences.
"La gente" is singular and the verb has to agree with whether the word is singular or plural. "Miran" would be the plural conjugation.
I'm still not getting the singular/plural thing, here. "Look" in English covers all present tense conjugations EXCEPT third person singular. Even allowing for the fact that "people" may be used as a singular noun at times, the sentence, "The people look," is definitely not such an instance. If there were any doubt about the noun, the conjugation of the English verb eliminates it.
Is "gente" simply an irregular noun and always used with a singular verb, even when the English translation requires a plural verb?
It's not that part it doesn't accept, it insists on the article. I came here to see if anyone else thought, as I do, that it's colloquial enough to be acceptable. That is, if your two-year-old is squalling its head off in a public place and you hiss 'Sssh, people are looking' would it be anything other than 'la gente mira'? (Realising I have no idea of the Spanish for Husssh, or even Be Quiet, or even Shut up!)
I think I hear this a lot when watching Spanish TV. I keep hearing meeda this, meeda that, and I finally concluded that they were saying look (mira) at this or that. You have to be able to understand enough of what is being said in order to infer the unintelligible parts. There's a point at which epiphanies begin to occur.
I wasn't really talking about putting in a word-for-word Spanish translation for "the people look on" but rather how the idea would be expressed in Spanish, because I was thinking it would be "la gente mira" also. I was thinking about suggesting that English expression to Duolingo, but I was hoping for someone (a native speaker or more advanced student perhaps) to have a say before I did. I later found out, though, that I was right (according to spanishdict and other sites)--it is expressed as "la gente mira" or "la gente observa". I think "observa" conveys the meaning better than just "mira", i.e., for my "the people look on" version.