Britain and British

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, I've just read several threads that seemed to be about the same or similar topic, but I couldn't find a definite answer to this.
First, please see the following examples I created.

1. British people [or The British or Brits] speak British English.
2. People in Britain speak British English.


Judging from the definitions in dictionaries and the threads I've read, these two sentences don't mean the same.
#1 means people in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland speak British English, while #2 means people in England, Wales, and Scotland speak British English.

So, although
"British" looks/sounds like an adjective for "Britain", it is not.
And the people from Northern Ireland would answer "Yes" to
"Are you British?", but would answer "No" to "Are you from (Great) Britain?"

Correct?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Since the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you could claim that "people in Britain" excludes inhabitants of Northern Ireland. But of course it's not that simple. The Wikipedia article on the People of Northern Ireland makes this comment with regard to the 2011 census: Most people of Protestant background consider themselves British, while a majority of people of Catholic background consider themselves Irish. And whatever else it may also be, the word British certainly is the adjective for Britain.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    There are many people in Britain who were not born (or didn’t learn their English) there so #2 is dubious at best:D
    The distinction you make (including or excluding N. Ireland) is also dubious when you don’t specify geographic or political designations.
    Here’s a post from a previous thread
    And don't forget the British Isles - a geographical rather than political term which decsribes the whole of the island of Ireland as well Great Britain (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

    This whole issue can be very confusing, particularly in the world of sport:

    - In the Olympic Games we compete as Great Britain, not the United Kingdom (even though our team includes athletes from Northern Ireland).

    - In the Commonwealth Games the four home nations (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) compete as independent nations, as they also do in football.

    - In rugby union, England, Scotland and Wales compete as independent nations, however Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland come together and compete simply as Ireland (no doubt this infuriates the N. Irish unionists)

    - In rugby league, there is both an England team as well as Great Britain team!

    - In cricket, we compete as England although this also includes players from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (even more confusingly Scotland does have a cricket team as well, although it deosn't have full international status in the world of cricket - there is one player who plays both for England and Scotland!)

    Hope that clears things up!
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Also, there are British people who do not live in Britain (distinguishing sentence 1 and 2) - British émigrés, expats and so on.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Most people of Protestant background consider themselves British, while a majority of people of Catholic background consider themselves Irish.
    That's interesting. Thanks for the info.

    There are many people in Britain who were not born (or didn’t learn their English) there so #2 is dubious at best:D
    You're right. I'm sure there are many North Americans living in the UK who (still) speak in North American accent and there are many immigrants etc. whose English is very poor. Still, if they use British terms (e.g. "petrol station", "car parks", "loo") and (try to) pronounce in the British way (e.g. "tomato", "schedule", "advertisement"), they "speak British English", don't they?
    (I'm sure we can exclude tourists and other visitors and regard "people in Britain" as "people living in Britain".)


    Also, there are British people who do not live in Britain (distinguishing sentence 1 and 2) - British émigrés, expats and so on.
    You're right. From that perspective #1 and #2 are not the same either.
     
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