'British-born' Chinese [vs Britain-born]

pulaunias

Member
Mandarin
Dear members,

I would like to be advised regarding this:

Why is a ethnic Chinese born in Britain called "British-born Chinese" instead of "Britain-born"??

Thanks very much!
 
  • EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Why is a ethnic Chinese born in Britain called "British-born Chinese" instead of "Britain-born"??
    To be Britain-born means to have been born in Britain; it does not imply that the person, by birth, is a British citizen. To be British-born means that the person is by birth a British citizen; it does not imply that the person was born in Britain.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I think you would actually say British-born whether you meant born British or born in Britain. Some other phrases have both possibilities: a British-based company, or a Britain-based company.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    Personally:

    To answer you question, I WOULD say "Britain-born Chinese".

    I would not use 'British-born" because there is no such place as 'British'.


    E.g.

    'Britain-born' is like 'water-born' = someone who was born in the water.

    'British-born' is like 'watery-born' = incorrect grammar.
     

    Domhnuil

    Member
    English
    NZF You have a good point there. You couldn't really say New Zealandish born, or even just New Zealandish. I think it's probably how it rolls of your tongue. Which would be right, New Zealand born, or New Zealander born? In the British case I would probably plump for British of Chinese ethnicity. Once, however, they have been assimilated into the community, they would be just British. One more for the melting pot.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I am a New Zealand-born New Zealander. We would never say "New Zealander-born".

    You could say, "He was born a New Zealander, but gave up his citizenship to become a citizen of Israel".
     

    Domhnuil

    Member
    English
    I think the answer then is there are no set rules so long as the meaning is understood, and thereby lies the problem. By the way, I think a person takes the British nationality if they are born here whether their parents are British or not. I can never get my head round to these dual nationality things, like African American, or Chinese British - British Chinese etcetera. You might have dual citizenship, but surely you can't be both ethnicities.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    To be Britain-born means to have been born in Britain; it does not imply that the person, by birth, is a British citizen. To be British-born means that the person is by birth a British citizen; it does not imply that the person was born in Britain.
    I really cannot agree with that. The BE expression is British-born, and it does not mean born as a British citizen. The two ways of expressing this meaning (identically) in BE are:

    British-born
    Born in Britain

    If I meant somebody was born a British citizen but not necessarily in Britain I would say

    born British or
    British by birth

    As nzfauna says, I would also use
    New Zealand-born
    (and born a New Zealander)

    but
    French-born, German-born, American-born, Greek-born

    That is because New Zealander is a noun, not an adjective, whereas French, German, American and Greek may all be used as adjectives. If you want to have an adjective for New Zealand, you make do by using New Zealand - a New Zealand ship, a New Zealand bird. Similarly, a Hong Kong mountain, Hong Kong-born

    My daughter
    Hong Kong-born, British by birth
    my son
    British-born, British by birth
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The BE expression is British-born, and it does not mean born as a British citizen. The two ways of expressing this meaning (identically) in BE are: British-born [;] Born in Britain [.] If I meant somebody was born a British citizen but not necessarily in Britain I would say born British or British by birth...
    If I understand you correctly, to be born British and to be British-born have different meanings.
     

    Domhnuil

    Member
    English
    Maybe, it's all a bit confusing. With the information in here maybe we should let the originator make up his/her own mind about which to go along with.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    To me, yes
    The dictionary is on your side:
    -born combines with adjectives that relate to countries or with the names of cities and areas to form adjectives that indicate where someone was born: The German-born photographer was admired by writers such as Oscar Wilde. (Collins dictionary, 2007).
     

    Domhnuil

    Member
    English
    When you come to actually think about it Britain born would be more correct than British born, although through common usage, British born might sound better. British born would seem to imply that the person was born by the British people rather than of the land.
     

    ><FISH'>

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am under the impression that "British-born" means "born in the British isles and having British citizenship because of it. "Britain-born" would be a more direct "born in Britain". Alternatively, a "Briton-born" can simply mean "born as a Briton". Either way I find all three acceptable and correct, they mean basically the same thing when devoid of context.
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    To be Britain-born means to have been born in Britain; it does not imply that the person, by birth, is a British citizen. To be British-born means that the person is by birth a British citizen; it does not imply that the person was born in Britain.
    Absolutely not, Estjarn. The term Britain-born is not frequently used (I have actually never heard or seen it); we use the terms British-born, French-born, Spanish-born etc to mean born on the soil of that country. It does not imply any nationality of that country.
    To be born British does imply having British nationality. To be born French implies having French nationality etc
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    I really cannot agree with that. The BE expression is British-born, and it does not mean born as a British citizen. The two ways of expressing this meaning (identically) in BE are:

    British-born
    Born in Britain

    If I meant somebody was born a British citizen but not necessarily in Britain I would say

    born British or
    British by birth

    As nzfauna says, I would also use
    New Zealand-born
    (and born a New Zealander)

    but
    French-born, German-born, American-born, Greek-born

    That is because New Zealander is a noun, not an adjective, whereas French, German, American and Greek may all be used as adjectives. If you want to have an adjective for New Zealand, you make do by using New Zealand - a New Zealand ship, a New Zealand bird. Similarly, a Hong Kong mountain, Hong Kong-born

    My daughter
    Hong Kong-born, British by birth
    my son
    British-born, British by birth
    Andy's explanation covers just about everything. Very clearly put. And correct
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    ...we use the terms British-born, French-born, Spanish-born etc to mean born on the soil of that country. It does not imply any nationality of that country.
    When the news speaks of, for example, the British-born writer, XX, living in YY country, it should not be assumed that this writer is British by birth, only that he was born somewhere in Britain. His nationality could in fact be French, or Italian, or Chinese. Right?
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    Right. All we know in such a case is that he was born on British soil.
    However, it does imply one other thing - either that he was not of British nationality, or that he later lived elsewhere, or changed his nationality to non-British. Otherwise there would be no point in stating the fact. It would be ridiculous to refer to the Queen as British-born, as she was born and raised there, has the nationality, and still lives there.
    On the contrary, to call Wilson Kipketer (world record-holder athlete) Kenyan-born would be normal, as he later lived in Denmark and adopted Danish nationality.
     
    Last edited:

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    However, it does imply one other thing [...] that he later lived elsewhere, or changed his nationality to non-British.
    I'm not sure I understand the above part [which is an addition to post #20]. Do you mean that it is okay to use the expression British-born to mean British by birth when referring to Britons who no longer live in Britain or have changed their nationality?
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    I'm not sure I understand the above part [which is an addition made to post #20]. Do you mean that it is okay to use the expression British-born to mean British by birth when referring to Britons who no longer live in Britain or have changed their nationality?
    Especially for Britons who have changed their nationality, yes. Probably not particularly useful for someone like me, both British-born and still of British nationality. It's not wrong, just superfluous.
    The whole point is British-born BUT................ otherwise there's no point writing or saying it.
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    Dear members,

    I would like to be advised regarding this:

    Why is a ethnic Chinese born in Britain called "British-born Chinese" instead of "Britain-born"??

    Thanks very much!
    What does "ethnic Chinese" mean anyway?
    If the person is of Chinese nationality born in Britain I would call him a British-born Chinaman.
    If the person is of British nationality with Chinese roots, I would call him a Briton of Chinese origin.
     

    pulaunias

    Member
    Mandarin
    What does "ethnic Chinese" mean anyway?
    ______________________________________________________

    I think that is what we refer to people by ethnical groups in Canada, as I remember.

    As I understand, in many cases it can be confusing to call a Canadian with Chinese origin as "Chinese", as his citizenship is Canadian. So the alternative is to add "ethnic". Moreover, it is considered not correct to call decendents of aboriginal residents who lived there before Columbus discovered them "Indians", we call them "first nations".
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    What does "ethnic Chinese" mean anyway?
    If the person is of Chinese nationality born in Britain I would call him a British-born Chinaman.
    If the person is of British nationality with Chinese roots, I would call him a Briton of Chinese origin.
    The problem is that Chinaman is considered derogatory by many, and Briton has connotations of the early Britons before and immediately after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in 450.

    What does "ethnic Chinese" mean anyway?
    ______________________________________________________

    I think that is what we refer to people by ethnical groups in Canada, as I remember.

    As I understand, in many cases it can be confusing to call a Canadian with Chinese origin as "Chinese", as his citizenship is Canadian. So the alternative is to add "ethnic". Moreover, it is considered not correct to call decendents of aboriginal residents who lived there before Columbus discovered them "Indians", we call them "first nations".
    That's only in Canada though; I first heard it there (and didn't think it was a transparent term); it's not common elsewhere. We continue to refer to the Indians in South America as such, for example.

    But back to the original question:

    I think we have to use British-born because Britain-born has simply not caught on. We can also say British Chinese or Chinese British depending on focus.
     

    pulaunias

    Member
    Mandarin
    Hi nat,

    You are right. It is not self-explaining.

    A slight problem by refering to the aboriginals as "indians" is that there are a lot of real Indian immigrants from Asia, so there is not way to differentiate them verbally. Some people actaully call the Asian Indians as "East Indians".

    I remember once a friend from Brazil told me he has "some indian blood", it took me quite a while to figure out how he can have (asian) Indian blood, because it was my impression that there are not too many Indian immigrants in Brazil. I later figured out that he meant the other, aboriginal "indian".
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think we have to use British-born because Britain-born has simply not caught on.
    I can't accept that. See my earlier post. This isn't specific to British/Britain. It's not that using nouns didn't catch on; we use adjectives. We do not say France-born, Germany-born, America-born, China-born, Mexico-born. When we say New Zealand-born or Hong Kong-born or Wiltshire-born, we are using New Zealand, Hong Kong or Wiltshire as an adjective. As we also do in phrases like a Hong Kong citizen, a New Zealand ship, a Wiltshire field.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    We do not say France-born, Germany-born, America-born, China-born, Mexico-born
    I say France-born, America-born, China born, Mexico-born.

    When we say New Zealand-born or Hong Kong-born or Wiltshire-born, we are using New Zealand, Hong Kong or Wiltshire as an adjective
    When I use these compound adjectives, I'm using the country/place as a noun.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Actually those are my points. Maybe 'France-born' is normal in New Zealand, but I certainly have never heard this, and it's always been 'French-born' for me. This is what I meant when I said 'Britain-born' hasn't caught on (for a lot of the English-speaking world).
     

    Gwan

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    Actually those are my points. Maybe 'France-born' is normal in New Zealand, but I certainly have never heard this, and it's always been 'French-born' for me. This is what I meant when I said 'Britain-born' hasn't caught on (for a lot of the English-speaking world).
    I don't have much occasion to use either, but I would use the adjectival form 'British-born' etc. Personally I tend to say that "I'm a New Zealander with (dual) British citizenship" and get into where I was born etc. later. I wouldn't like to describe myself as "New Zealand-born" because to me it would have the implication that I don't identify as a New Zealander (which I do).
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    'Britain-born' is like 'water-born' = someone who was born in the water.

    'British-born' is like 'watery-born' = incorrect grammar.
    I think we have established that British-born is not incorrect grammar (although no one is forcing anyone to use it). I would not use Britain-born, and I wouldn't recommend it to someone learning English, but I would certainly understand it if I heard it. If I heard water-born I would interpret it as water-borne.
     

    Amber_1010

    Senior Member
    Chinese-Cantonese
    << Moderator's note: This question has been added to a previous thread. >>

    Hi!

    Today, I had a meeting and one of the guys said "I'm a British born Chinese."
    Is that correct? Especially in AE? Because I wonder why it isn't Britain born Chinese. You can only be born in Britain not british, right?

    What do you think?

    Please comment on it!
    Thanks!
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    horace.mik

    Senior Member
    Russian and Italian - bilingual
    I interpreted your question for which the guy is Chinese naturalized British. In other words, the Chinese guy has become the British citizen.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I interpreted your question for which the guy is Chinese naturalized British. In other words, the Chinese guy has become the British citizen.
    :thumbsdown:
    It seems rather obvious that British-born refers to being born in, or a citizen of, the U.K.

    What makes the whole thing unclear is that we don't know whether the speaker is talking about Chinese ethnicity, citizenship or both.

    Moreover, we need to know whether being born in the U.K. confers citizenship.

    Still moreover, the OP is in Hong Kong, which was a part of the U.K. and can raise other questions.

    I haven't the foggiest idea what it means.
     

    horace.mik

    Senior Member
    Russian and Italian - bilingual
    I thought about that. I totally agree with you. It wasn't clear if the question told about ethnic or political matters.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I would understand, "I'm a British born Chinese." as "I was born in Britain (UK) to Chinese parents."

    British nationality law is very complex. To adapt a quote: "There are only three people who understand it: one is mad, another speaks to nobody and the third is dead." :D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    British nationality law is very complex.
    Not particularly - described here by the UK Border Agency http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/britishcitizenship/aboutcitizenship/Britishcitizenship/

    I would interpret this as meaning born in Britain of parents who are ethnically Chinese. Whether he is a British or Chinese national is not stated.
    I thought about that. I totally agree with you. It wasn't clear if the question told about ethnic or political matters.
    It's clearly about neither, it's about grammar.

    None of the previous posts answers the question, which is why "British" not "Britain". That is because we use adjectives when constructing a compound adjective. He didn't say "I'm a British born Chinese", he said "I'm a British-born Chinese" - you can't hear the hyphen. Just the same as we say American-born, French-born and Chinese-born. The only exception is where there is no adjectival form, as in "My daughter is a Hong Kong-born Briton." That sounds pretty clumsy, so I'd be more likely to say "My daughter was born in Hong Kong" and leave it to others to realise that she's not Chinese.
     
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