I'm Chinese / I'm a Chinese [Nationality: adjective vs noun]

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
They both sound good to me.
Thanks, RM, for answering my query from about a year and a half ago. I really do.
Well, I think he would elaborate on his situation a bit more.

What he responds depends on what he's asked as well.

"Where are you from?"
"I'm originally from [Y] but I've been living here in [X] for # years already. I'm a permanent resident of [X]. I have [X] citizenship."
"I was born here in [X], but my (grand)parents are from [Y]."
Okay, so in a case like this, there is no simple way like I'm Chinese. What if it's the other way around? You could say, "I'm American" or "I'm an American," couldn't you?
 
  • 2PieRad

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Sure. I'm American is more common, more neutral. I'm an American seems to carry some other undertones (for me at least).

    But if you look Asian, some people may still want you to elaborate, at which point you can say that your (grand)parents are from [X].

    The difference is that there are many Americans of Chinese ancestry, but not so many Chinese people of American ancestry yet (I assume...I'm not sure how easy it is for a foreigner to obtain Chinese citizenship.) So there really isn't a common way yet to express what you were originally describing. People would just explain their situation, whatever it may be, instead of trying to sum it all up in one word.

    And we'll both have noticed that I said "Americans" but "Chinese people". There's probably a good reason why. I'm not sure what it is, but I assume the answer is somewhere earlier in this thread or in another thread.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Okay, so in a case like this, there is no simple way like I'm Chinese. What if it's the other way around? You could say, "I'm American" or "I'm an American," couldn't you?
    Post #11 seems pretty clear: it works for some but bot others.
    I'm American. :thumbsup:
    I'm an American.:thumbsup:
    I'm Chinese.:thumbsup:
    I'm a Chinese.:thumbsdown:
    I'm English. :thumbsup:
    I'm an English.:thumbsdown:
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    . What would he call himself? I am Chinese? Chinese to me sounds like an ethnicity, not a nationality, while American like a nationality.

    What? China is a country. Do you doubt this? Chinese is a nationality. Asking anyone who is Taiwanese. Their language is Mandarin, their ancestry and ethnicity is as Chinese as anyone on earth. But their nationality is Taiwanese. The PRC has adopted the English name "China", and rejects the idea that Taiwan is "China", and in 2019 everyone accepts that.

    Are you claiming that the word "Chinese" has only one meaning? Sorry, you are out-voted. Most English words have multiple meanings. "Chinese" has multiple meanings.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    What? China is a country. Do you doubt this? Chinese is a nationality. Asking anyone who is Taiwanese. Their language is Mandarin, their ancestry and ethnicity is as Chinese as anyone on earth. But their nationality is Taiwanese. The PRC has adopted the English name "China", and rejects the idea that Taiwan is "China", and in 2019 everyone accepts that.

    Are you claiming that the word "Chinese" has only one meaning? Sorry, you are out-voted. Most English words have multiple meanings. "Chinese" has multiple meanings.
    Hi, Doji.

    So he can call himself Chinese, as in 'I'm Chinese'? That American-turned Chinese person I asked about as an example. I'm curious.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Hi, Doji.

    So he can call himself Chinese, as in 'I'm Chinese'? That American-turned Chinese person I asked about as an example. I'm curious.
    If his passport is Chinese and he has Chinese citizenship, what else do you need for him to be able to say "I'm Chinese" if someone asks him his nationality?
    If I renounced my UK citizenship, I would be able to say "I'm American" - I have citizenship and a passport.
     
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    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hello, Julian. Hello, Erebos.

    Oh, I'm asking about the particular persons in my example. An American-turned Chinese person and an American by nationality who was born and raised in China under Chinese parentage. The first was born under the parentage of Caucasians but changed his nationality to Chinese by choice later in his life. Could he say 'I'm Chinese'?

    The second is the other way around. I think I guessed about him already in this post. Maybe 'I'm (an) American by nationality'? He was born and raised under Chinese parentage with Chinese nationality in China but move to the U.S. and obtained the U.S. citizenship. In this case I think he can 'I'm (an) American' alone too, can't he?

    [Julian, I wrote this as you wrote yours, thanks]
     

    2PieRad

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    He was born and raised under Chinese parentage with Chinese nationality in China but move to the U.S. and obtained the U.S. citizenship.
    American. Chinese-American.
    The first was born under the parentage of Caucasians but changed his nationality to Chinese by choice later in his life. Could he say 'I'm Chinese'?
    Again, this situation is rare, so even though he is correct in saying "I'm Chinese", he'd elaborate on his situation beyond simply saying "I'm Chinese". When a phenomenon becomes common enough, the language will naturally grant it a name that others will understand without you having to elaborate. American-Chinese may (or may not) be the phrase that is used in the future. Till that happens, it's moot to speculate further. Or find someone who has lived this experience and ask them how they choose to explain their nationality. It may be hard, given China's nationality laws.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Suppose an American man has lived in China for a very long time, during which period he got married to a Chinese woman and had sons and daughters. He loves China so much and has started to hate America so much for some reason that he renounced his American nationality and acquired the Chinese nationality. What would he call himself? I am Chinese? Chinese to me sounds like an ethnicity, not a nationality, while American like a nationality. I doubt he can say 'I'm American' or 'I'm an American' anymore. But then Chinese? You can't change your ethnicity.

    (The above is mere a supposition with no specific intention)
    Well, I think he would elaborate on his situation a bit more.

    What he responds depends on what he's asked as well.

    "Where are you from?"
    "I'm originally from [Y] but I've been living here in [X] for # years already. I'm a permanent resident of [X]. I have [X] citizenship."
    "I was born here in [X], but my (grand)parents are from [Y]."
    I agree, Erebos. I'm a dual citizen (UK/Italy). When you ask me where I'm from I say "I'm from London but I've been living here for years". If you ask me my nationality I say I'm a dual citizen.

    HSS, I don't agree that 'Chinese' is only a reference to your ethnicity. It means your nationality as well and while it may sound odd for someone who's not of Chinese origin to say "I'm Chinese" if that's the only nationality they have then that's what they have to say. As Erebos says they would probably qualify that statement.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Asking anyone who is Taiwanese. Their language is Mandarin, their ancestry and ethnicity is as Chinese as anyone on earth.
    Just a side note. Taiwanese might also say they speak Taiwanese (by which they mean what is called Hokkien elsewhere or the Min dialect). See Taiwanese Hokkien - Wikipedia

    Over here we have a majority Chinese population - and if I wanted to make it clear that I refer to ethnicity, I'd say ethnic-Chinese. We also have immigrants from China. We might say 'Chinese nationals'. If they have given up their Chinese nationality to become Singaporean, I would say they were originally from China.

    If an American renounces their American citizenship and takes up Chinese citizenship, I might also say that they are a Chinese national, or a naturalised Chinese citizen. (See Naturalization - Wikipedia.)
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Over here we have a majority Chinese population - and if I wanted to make it clear that I refer to ethnicity, I'd say ethnic-Chinese. We also have immigrants from China. We might say 'Chinese nationals'. If they have given up their Chinese nationality to become Singaporean, I would say they were originally from China.

    If an American renounces their American citizenship and takes up Chinese citizenship, I might also say that they are a Chinese national, or a naturalised Chinese citizen. (See Naturalization - Wikipedia.)
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Just a side note. Taiwanese might also say they speak Taiwanese (by which they mean what is called Hokkien elsewhere or the Min dialect). See Taiwanese Hokkien - Wikipedia

    Over here we have a majority Chinese population - and if I wanted to make it clear that I refer to ethnicity, I'd say ethnic-Chinese. We also have immigrants from China. We might say 'Chinese nationals'. If they have given up their Chinese nationality to become Singaporean, I would say they were originally from China.

    If an American renounces their American citizenship and takes up Chinese citizenship, I might also say that they are a Chinese national, or a naturalised Chinese citizen. (See Naturalization - Wikipedia.)
    Currently I'm a UK citizen (by birth) and a (naturalized) US citizen.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Suppose an American man has lived in China for a very long time, during which period he got married to a Chinese woman and had sons and daughters. He loves China so much and has started to hate America so much for some reason that he renounced his American nationality and acquired the Chinese nationality. What would he call himself? I am Chinese? Chinese to me sounds like an ethnicity, not a nationality, while American like a nationality. I doubt he can say 'I'm American' or 'I'm an American' anymore. But then Chinese? You can't change your ethnicity.

    (The above is mere a supposition with no specific intention)

    I'm a Chinese citizen now. My nationality is Chinese. I consider myself Chinese.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    To my non-native ear, 'a Chinese national' sounds reasonable, as it probably makes you realize the idea of him holding the nationality. Born and raised under Chinese parentage is another matter.
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I just came across this sentence written by a non-native with an MA in English literature:

    As a Chinese, Mr Chan speaks Spanish surprisingly good.

    I was once taught that "a Chinese" used like the above isn't wrong, but it isn't how most natives would say it.

    But then is it correct to change it to "As Chinese, Mr Chan..."?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    "As a Chinese, " is old-fashioned, as you say. Today I would say "As a Chinese person, ". Note that "Chinese" is an adjective.

    As Chinese, Chang speaks... :cross:
    As a Chinese, Chang speaks...:cross:
    As a Chinese person, Chang speaks... :tick:
    Being Chinese, Change speaks...:tick:

    But you want to express the idea that speaking Spanish well is unusual for a Chinese person. "As" and "being" don't say that. They both imply that since he is Chinese, it is normal for him to speak Spanish well.

    These are more normal, and imply it is unusual:

    For a Chinese person, Chang speaks...:tick:
    Although he is Chinese, Chang speaks...:tick:
    Despite being Chinese, Chang speaks...:tick:
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    "Chinese" is an adjective. We can convert it into a noun by adding "the" before it, i.e. "The Chinese".
    Example:
    The Chinese are very hard working people. (Here "The Chinese" represents all inhabitants of China)

    Similarly, "poor" is an adjective. We can convert it into a noun by adding "the" before it, i.e. "The poor".
    Example:
    The poor are suffering.
    We should help the poor.
    (Here "the poor" respresents the poor class of the whole world)


    Is this correct?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Chinese" is an adjective. We can convert it into a noun by adding "the" before it, i.e. "The Chinese".
    Example:
    The Chinese are very hard working people. (Here "The Chinese" represents all inhabitants of China)

    Similarly, "poor" is an adjective. We can convert it into a noun by adding "the" before it, i.e. "The poor".
    Example:
    The poor are suffering.
    We should help the poor.
    (Here "the poor" respresents the poor class of the whole world)


    Is this correct?
    Yes, but when we talk of helping the poor, the context usually limits the reference to the poor within our orbit.
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks

    "The Chinese are very hard working people"

    Here, would the word "Chinese" be a noun or the combination "The+Chinese" be a noun?

    The Chinese are very hard working people.

    Strictly speaking "Chinese" is not a noun here but an adjective in a special kind of construction called a 'fused' modifier-head, where "the Chinese" is understood as "Chinese people".

    Although "the Chinese" is a noun phrase, "Chinese" retains its status as an adjective.
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    The Chinese are very hard working people.

    Strictly speaking "Chinese" is not a noun here but an adjective in a special kind of construction called a 'fused' modifier-head, where "the Chinese" is understood as "Chinese people".

    Although "the Chinese" is a noun phrase, "Chinese" retains its status as an adjective.
    So the statement that I've read i.e. "we can convert the adjective "Chinese" into a noun by adding 'the' before it" is technically wrong? (my post#171)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Strictly speaking "Chinese" is not a noun here but an adjective in a special kind of construction called a 'fused' modifier-head, where "the Chinese" is understood as "Chinese people".
    Roymalika, this explanation, whilst accurate, is only true of one form of English grammar. At your level of English, it is not necessary to know this form of grammar: you are learning a simpler form of grammar that is just as good.
    So the statement that I've read i.e. "we can convert the adjective "Chinese" into a noun by adding 'the' before it" is technically wrong? (my post#171)
    The statement that you quote is a general statement - it is guidance. It is very helpful - you should learn it.
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    So the statement that I've read i.e. "we can convert the adjective "Chinese" into a noun by adding 'the' before it" is technically wrong? (my post#171)
    Yes, that is correct. Although "the Chinese" is a noun phrase, "Chinese" is an adjective.

    It's no different to "the rich", which is a noun phrase containing the adjective "rich", where "the rich" is understood as "rich people".
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    Yes, that is correct. Although "the Chinese" is a noun phrase, "Chinese" is an adjective.

    It's no different to "the rich", which is a noun phrase containing the adjective "rich", where "the rich" is understood as "rich people".
    In the sentence "The Chinese are very hard working people", can "The Chinese" be called just a noun, other than a noun phrase?
     

    Roymalika

    Senior Member
    Punjabi
    Yesterday I met Mr Xi Ching. He is a Chinese man. He is a chief engineer at BK Engineering Company. He is very friendly. I enjoyed a lot with him.


    A teacher said that we can say "He is Chinese", but not :thumbsdown:"He is a Chinese man" because "Chinese" is an adjective meaning an inhabitant from China, so there's no need to add the noun "man" to it.

    Is the teacher right, please?
     

    Dan Gao

    New Member
    (US) English
    Thirty-five years in Los Angeles. "Chinese" or "a Chinese" are both fine. The latter is more emphatic, but what it's emphasizing can only be determined by context.

    ***

    "Chinaman" is considered derogatory, perhaps more in the US than the UK. However, it is a literal translation of 中國人 Zhongguoren. Zhongguoren is politicized, meaning a PRC citizen, but I'm guessing that back in the day it might have been standard self-identification and may be the origin of "Chinaman".

    ***

    This stuff is touchy because it can refer to citizenship, nationality, ethnicity, culture, language, appearance, and probably other things too. It emphasizes differences and not always positively. I cringed a bit when I saw the example, "Looks like an American." - If you mean dresses, or behaves, or talks like an American, you are better off saying that. If you mean looks like a fat old white guy, you might just be a ageist, sexist, body-shaming bigot :D Of course when we say "looks Chinese" we mean straight black hair and sloe-eyes. Even if the best 'fro in my son's high school was 100% Han.
     
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