Definite article with nationalities.

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Hotmale

Senior Member
Polish
Hello :)

Some names of nations go with or without "the", e.g.
"We were attacked by (the) Australians"

Would it be possible to use in the same way Swiss or French?

"We were attacked by (the) Swiss/French"?

Thank you
 
  • FC7user

    Senior Member
    US English
    "We were attacked by the Swiss/French." It seems to me that the article "the" has to be there.
     

    FC7user

    Senior Member
    US English
    "We were attacked by (some) Australians/Americans" implies to me that some people of that nationality attacked, but the nation as a whole may or may not have been attacking. It could just be a few Australian lunatics that attacked.
    On the other hand, if you say "The Swiss/Americans/French/Australians attacked, it implies that the nation as a whole was attacking.

    Let me know if you have any questions about this.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The thread heading does not match the text

    "Swiss" and "French" are not the names of nation-states.

    Note the subtle difference between:

    We were attacked by Australians

    And

    We were attacked by the Australians

    Neither one of these sentences nails down the concept that the attacked entity was attacked by the nation-state of Australia, although the second sentence comes closer to that concept than the first.

    If you say "we were attacked by Australians," it's just as probable that the attackers were a bunch of rogues who happend to be from Australia. (As FC7user said)

    Likewise, if you say "we were attacked by the Australians," it might refer to which of a number of multicultural hooligans at a football match attacked you.

    To be really, really picky, I'd say "attacked by Australia, France, Switzerland, etc.

    Disclaimer: This is for example only and not to insult those fine countries.
     
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    Hotmale

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I've asked the question because there is a difference between sentences:

    a) "We were attacked by the Australians"
    b) "We were attacked by Auatralians"

    In a) we associate the Australians with the whole nation, whereas in b) we are just observing that the people are of Australian nationality.

    The question is - If I want to say the same about other nationality, e.g the British, the Chinese, the Swiss, would it be possible to drop the article?


    FranParis, let's use "welcome" instead of "attack", ok? ;)
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Both are possible with any nationality, and the distinctions explained above still hold:
    We were welcomed by the Danes who were at the banquet.
    We were welcomed by Danes thoughout the country.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There is nothing different about the Swiss or French (nationalities) to make usage different from that concerning Australians.

    You can run into trouble with nation-states whose Anglicized name contains the word "the."

    The Netherlands
    The Seychelles
    The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (as it is known to the ISO)
     

    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Australia is the name of a nation.
    Australians is the name of its inhabitants (or citizens).

    Being attacked by Australia and being attacked by Austalians is not the same thing. :)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Both are possible with any nationality, and the distinctions explained above still hold:
    We were welcomed by the Danes who were at the banquet.
    We were welcomed by Danes thoughout the country.
    I think I'd qualify this slightly. Both are possible with any nationality, provided that the name of the nationality can be used to refer to a single individual.

    A Dane:tick:
    We were attacked by some Danes/We were attacked by Danes:tick:
    We were attacked by the Danes:tick:

    A French:cross:
    We were attacked by some French/We were attacked by French:cross:
    We were attacked by the French:tick:

    Some names of nations go with or without "the", e.g.
    "We were attacked by (the) Australians"

    Would it be possible to use in the same way Swiss or French?

    "We were attacked by (the) Swiss/French"?
    So my answer to Hotmale's question is "no" for French; and a qualified "yes" for Swiss. Qualified "yes" because it is possible to say "a Swiss", but it's not heard as frequently as "a Dane", "an American", "an Australian".
     

    Hotmale

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I think I'd qualify this slightly. Both are possible with any nationality, provided that the name of the nationality can be used to refer to a single individual.

    A Dane:tick:
    We were attacked by some Danes/We were attacked by Danes:tick:
    We were attacked by the Danes:tick:

    A French:cross:
    We were attacked by some French/We were attacked by French:cross:
    We were attacked by the French:tick:



    So my answer to Hotmale's question is "no" for French; and a qualified "yes" for Swiss. Qualified "yes" because it is possible to say "a Swiss", but it's not heard as frequently as "a Dane", "an American", "an Australian".
    That's what I wanted to know. So the sentence "We were attacked by Poles/Swiss/Britons, etc." is correct because I can say "a Pole", "a Swiss", "a Briton"?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That's what I wanted to know. So the sentence "We were attacked by Poles/Swiss/Britons, etc." is correct because I can say "a Pole", "a Swiss", "a Briton"?
    Poles and Britons are fine, but not Swiss because it's not a plural noun. As it is an adjective, you cannot add -es to it, so your only option is something like Swiss people.

    (By the way, I don't think I'd ever say He's a Swiss. I would say He's Swiss.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes, "a Swiss, two Swiss" is possible, although you might find many people saying it sounds strange. I think the reason is that "Swiss" doesn't change in the plural, so people (including me) instinctively want to class it with adjectives like "French". The OED tells me that it used to have a plural "Swisses", which might explain why it's a special case.

    That's what I wanted to know. So the sentence "We were attacked by Poles/Swiss/Britons, etc." is correct because I can say "a Pole", "a Swiss", "a Briton"?
    Yes, with two caveats - the above point about "Swiss", and the fact that we don't actually often use the term "Briton" - unless we're talking about Ancient Britons;)
     

    Hotmale

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks Loobs :)

    I just wanted to confirm that my original sentence "We were attacked by (the) Australians" works with the names of nationalities that can refer to an individual, e.g. "an American", "a Scotsman (a Scot), "a Pole", "a Dane", "a Spaniard", "a Turk".

    So we were attaced by (the) Americans, Scotsmen, Poles, Danes, Spaniards, Turks".

    By the way what names, apart from "French" cannot refer to a single individual?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I know what you mean;), but just on a point of detail, "French" can refer to a single individual, it's just that you can't say ":cross:a French".

    The reason you can't say ":cross:a French" is that "French" is just an adjective; if you want a noun for someone of French nationality, you have to use a different word "Frenchman/Frenchwoman". Something similiar happens with all nationality adjectives ending in "-sh". You might find the lists here useful. I'm pretty sure there have been previous threads touching on this subject, too:)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    How about "We were welcomed by the Scottish"? It seems to have a different meaning than "We were welcomed by the Scotsmen" or "We were welcomed by the Scots".

    "We were welcomed by the Chinese" sounds fine to me, but "a Chinese" sounds funny, and "I know a little Chinese" would not normally refer to a person. To me, Chinese is either plural or an adjective: "I know a little Chinese boy."
     

    vdr

    New Member
    Hungarian
    Hi,

    I read the previous answers, but I still have a question. which is correct? :

    The Greeks are really helpful. OR
    Greeks are really helpful.

    or both of them are correct? if yes, is there a difference in their meaning?

    thanks for your answer.
     

    vdr

    New Member
    Hungarian
    one more example

    The Argentinians invented the tango.
    OR
    Argentinians invented the tango.

    which is the correct one?

    thx
     

    marcin k

    Senior Member
    Poland, polish
    First of all, it's necessary to distinguish adjectives from nouns.

    Polish - adjective
    Pole - noun

    It would be against logic to use the with only an adjective, because
    the just as much as any adjective describes nouns.

    An apple
    The apple
    The green apple

    Now, look:

    People
    the people
    the Polish people

    but who would be bothered to say every time something that is so obvious?

    If you say: The Polish are very mean and tend to make you feel depressed.
    What comes to your mind? The Polish snails? Or the Polish culture? Surely not.
    What comes to your mind is people. No need to use the word people at all. But if you feel like, will it be incorrect to say: The Polish people are mean... ?

    Every time you use THE with adjectives, remember, there's a noun to it, you just don't say it.

    The poor (people)
    The blind (people)

    If there's anything missing here, it's this word:

    all

    By saying the poor, we definitely mean all the poor people

    but why use all if it's so obvious...

    With nouns describing nationalities it's a bit different story.

    Pole is a noun, and that means that it can be put in singular and plural, while adjectives can't, because adjectives are not objects and therefore you can't count them.

    Singular...................Plural
    A Pole ....................Poles
    ******..................The Polish (plural meaning... why? --> the Polish people)

    As for using nationality nouns without any article, here's one context that comes to my mind:

    There are groups of people from different countries at a summer camp - Poles, Danes, Britons etc... If you are attacked by a few people and then you report it to the police, you can say: I was attacked by Poles.
    That means not all the Poles who are staying at the camp, but by some of them. You don't say it, though, because it's obvious.
     

    Woofer

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Yes, with two caveats - the above point about "Swiss", and the fact that we don't actually often use the term "Briton" - unless we're talking about Ancient Britons;)
    You may not refer often to "Britons", but it's not uncommon at all in the US. It doesn't show up in common speech all that often, but the term is very heavily used in news stories and headlines.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    You may not refer often to "Britons", but it's not uncommon at all in the US. It doesn't show up in common speech all that often, but the term is very heavily used in news stories and headlines.
    The British press use it too:).
     

    bolzano217

    Member
    Russian
    Good day,

    consider this sentence: Russians joined the war.
    Is it correct to use no article before "Russians" in this sentence?
    How would the meaning change if we said The Russians joined the war?
    In general: when should I use the definite article with names of nations?

    Thank you,
    Igor.

    <<Moderator's note:

    I have joined this recent thread with a previous thread on the same issue, thus the repetition and the slightly odd order.

    Please read from the beginning. :) >>
     
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    bolzano217

    Member
    Russian
    (By the way, I don't think I'd ever say He's a Swiss. I would say He's Swiss.)[/QUOTE]

    Good day,

    in general, what is more preferable in sentences like this: "a" or "no article".
    Is it more common to say "He is American" than "He is an American"?
    What is the difference in meaning, if any?
    Are there regional differences, e.g., British English vs. American English?

    Thank you.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    It sure is. I think you can use the article almost anytime you use a name such as "the Russians, the French, etc.". It is possible, however, to delete it: Italians have great food and wine. Here I could have just as easily written: The Italians have great food and wine. You'll find both in print. Here is an excellent description and explanation of articles and how and when to use them: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/determiners/determiners.htm

    This is an excellent website for grammar, and you should try clicking the "index" button at the bottom of the page after you're done reading about the articles. The section on articles comes about halfway down the page after "determiners".
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Russians joined the war = some Russians joined the war. This seems a strange thing to say unless you can give a context.
    The Russians joined the war = Russia joined the war OR a particular group of Russians joined the war.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    There is probably no simple answer.

    In "He is American", American is an adjective describing the person; in "He is an American", American is a noun identifying the person as a member of the group "(the) Americans".

    Sometimes there is apparently not much difference:

    He is Spanish. [one of his characteristics]
    He is a Spaniard. [(part of) his identity]

    But watch out for alternative meanings:

    He is strange.
    [He is unusual or weird.]
    He is a stranger. [I/You do not know him.]

    He is Greek. [He comes from Greece.]
    He is a Greek. [He is a citizen of Greece, or he belongs to a Greek-letter fraternity.]

    He is Jewish. [This may refer to ancestry or beliefs.]
    He is a Jew. [This may be a neutral statement, or it may be positive ("one of us" if "we" are Jewish, or if "we" subscribe to an Abrahamic religion), or negative (one of "them"), depending on context.]

    He is Taiwanese. [He grew up in Taiwan.]
    He is a Taiwanese. [He and his family probably speak Taiwanese at home.]

    Be especially careful when there are multiple alternatives that "ought to" mean the same thing (sorry, I don't have a clear understanding of the differences):

    He is Scotch
    /Scottish.
    He is a Chinese/Chinaman.
    She is a Jew
    /Jewess.
    He is Thai/Siamese.
    He is an Arkansan
    /Arkansawyer.

    Nationalities that end in s, etc., seem to lack a plural and sound odd even as singular nouns:

    He is a Swiss. [?]
    He is a Portuguese. [?]
    He is a French. [?]
     

    rafanadal

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hi there.
    Just a curiosity, I Googled the popular sentence written on Madonna's t-shirt back in the days, which said "Italians do it better". I found a lot more hits without the definite article THE before Italians.
    Is this just because it's a slogan or something like this?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi there.
    Just a curiosity, I Googled the popular sentence written on Madonna's t-shirt back in the days, which said "Italians do it better". I found a lot more hits without the definite article THE before Italians.
    Is this just because it's a slogan or something like this?
    I'm not sure why you are asking, but in this sense, optional usage without the article is completely natural when appropriate, depending upon the nationality and depending on context.

    Americans like baseball.
    The British like cricket.
    Italians eat pasta
    Germans drink beer.
    The French drink wine.

    You just have to learn the usage one by one. Sorry.:oops:
     

    rafanadal

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hi Sdgraham, thank you for you reply.
    I asked because I knew the rule said a definite article is required before nationalities.
    Then I was puzzled whem I thought about that sentence.
    Going by your reply I understand it's an extremely tricky thing :D
     
    Hello everybody, I'd like to ask about the sentence below:

    For decades this unusual economic model has served Norway well: in 1970 it was in Europe’s middle ranks as measured by income per head. Nowadays, Norwegians are richer than everyone in Europe except the Luxembourgers.

    Is there no rule and no further explanation? Norwegians sounds right without the definite article and Luxembourgers should go with it?

    Flore

    Source
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I'm not sure why you are asking, but in this sense, optional usage without the article is completely natural when appropriate, depending upon the nationality and depending on context.
    Americans like baseball.
    The British like cricket.
    Italians eat pasta
    Germans drink beer.
    The French drink wine.
    , You just have to learn the usage one by one. Sorry.:oops:
    The definite article has to be included when the nationality looks like an adjective. This happens when the nationality has no plural form. "British" and "French" have no plural because the regular plural, based on phonetics, would add a syllable ("Britishes", "Frenches"). I think this is a simple rule.

    You could say "Frenchmen drink wine", but that leaves out French women.
    Hello everybody, I'd like to ask about the sentence below:

    For decades this unusual economic model has served Norway well: in 1970 it was in Europe’s middle ranks as measured by income per head. Nowadays, Norwegians are richer than everyone in Europe except the Luxembourgers.

    Is there no rule and no further explanation? Norwegians sounds right without the definite article and Luxembourgers should go with it?

    Flore

    Source
    Norwegians here is helped by Norway in the previous sentence. We are talking directly about Norwegians in general and indirectly about the country itself. The sentence is a confusing mix of plurals with a singular everyone. The intent is to refer to Luxembourgers as a group, not as individuals, and the definite article makes this clearer. There is probably a better way to express this without such singular/plural confusion, but it does not come to mind readily.
     
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