The Japanese or Japanese [people]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Akasaka, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. Akasaka Senior Member

    Hello everyone,
    Do I need "the" before "Japanese"? If both are correct, what is the difference?

    Japanese eat rice at leat once a day.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    "The Japanese" means the people of Japan.

    "Japanese" means the language of the Japanese.
  3. Josseppe Senior Member

    American English
    You can also say:

    Japanese people eat rice at least once a day.
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Since the people of Japan aren't referred to in the plural (as are Canadians, Germans, Americans, etc.), you must use some other way of describing the people themselves. If Japanese people were referred to as "Japaneses", then you wouldn't need "The". The same premise would hold true for French people. You wouldn't say:

    "French eat cheese every day".

    French is the language. "The French" are the human beings (or "French people" as Josseppe suggested).
  5. Akasaka Senior Member

    Hi Dimcl,
    You mean you can use both "Canadians" (general) and "The Canadians" (definite) but not for Japanese. "The Japanese" is parallel with "the Canadians", I understand. But what is parallel with "Canadians"?
  6. rodoke Senior Member

    Illinois, USA
    en-US; .us
    Actually they are. The plural of Japanese is Japanese ;)

    This isn't because they are "plural", it's because the suffixes like -(i)an,-er, and -i form into "obvious" plurals. Other suffixes require the.

    Quebec provides a good example:
    • :tick:The Quebeckers love to eat oatmeal.
    • :tick:Quebeckers love to eat oatmeal.
    • :tick:The Québécois love to eat oatmeal.
    • :cross:Québécois love to eat oatmeal.
    Many of those "irregular" suffixes also have completely different words for referring to their people:
    • :cross:French eat cheese every day.
    • :tick:Frenchmen eat cheese every day.
  7. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada
    I always thought it depended on whether the word for the nationality was a noun or an adjective (when referring to people and not languages and so on), with Canadian, German, etc. being nouns, while Japanese, French, etc. are adjectives and so have to be used either with a noun or with "the" (sort of like "the meek will inherit the earth"), but the dictionaries I checked lists them all as nouns, so now I'm not sure. But I can't think of any context where I'd use the latter group as nouns -- for example, I'd never say "a Japanese."

    Québécois is interesting for me, since I think for me it's an adjective and saying "a Québécois" sounds a little off, but not as bad as "a Japanese" and I do find some examples online in the media. So now I really don't know what's going on.

    Posted before adding that for me "The Japanese" is parallel with "Canadians" in that they are both made to use general statements, for example "Canadians like hockey, but the Japanese like soccer." And it's also parallel with "the Canadians", for example in something like "The Canadians and the Japanese were the only groups who disagreed with the plan." (And that answers my previous question, because this is a context where I use "Japanese" as a noun -- although, now that I think of it, the sentence doesn't sound completely right, so now I'm really not sure, and I'd probably rephrase and say something like "the Canadian and Japanese delegations were...")
  8. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Actually, I meant by adding an "s" (as you likely knew).:)

    I find this to be odd. I would not expect to see "The" in this sentence. To me, that would be like saying "The Manitobans suffer a long winter" or "Many of the Albertans work in the oil patch".
  9. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Excuse me, what is the reason you feel "a Japanese" strange but not "an American"? I don't see the difference.

    Interesting, but could anyone explain why? Why is it OK for nations but not for state residents as a whole? What do you call Yugoslavian groups of people?
  10. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada
    There's no reason -- it's just the way the word works. So you'd say "a Japanese person", "a French person", "a Dutch person" and so on (or with another word instead of "person") but "an American" or "a German." I thought it had to do with whether the word was a noun or not, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    I don't think it has to do with the type of group being referred to. I think it's just that Québécois is relatively new and relatively rare as an English term and so for me at least, I'm not sure exactly how it's to be used. Personally I prefer to treat it like "Japanese" and "French" but like I said I found the media using "a Québécois" so that's why I think I find it less strange.

    Edit: After some searching, including some of the earlier discussions on this forum, where I wrote "the way the word works", I should have added "for me and in the usage around here" since it seems different speakers have different usages with these words. I looked them up in the OED and earlier usage seems very strange for me. For example, "French" had the plural "Frenches" (which is marked as obsolete) and there are examples from like "Our island has indeed been conquered by Italians, and conquered by French" which for me is ungrammatical, but maybe not for other speakers.
  11. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I don't believe this is governed by rules but by convention.

    I disagree that "a Japanese" is necessarily in the same category as "a French", "an English", etc. (in requiring "person", etc. to be appended to it). It is quite accepted by many to refer to a Japanese person as "a Japanese", and many Japanese refer to themselves in this way when speaking about themselves. It may (for some reason) sound impolite if you are not used to it, and some speakers may find it uncomfortable, but it is commonly heard: for example in academic circles and in materials where Japanese language and culture is discussed in English.
  12. Conan Doyle Senior Member

    Vietnam, English
    A Japanese = A Japanese person.
    5 Japanese = 5 Japanese people.
    Many Japanese = Many Japanese people.

    I don't see "s" is required here.

  13. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada
    In fact it was one of your posts in another thread that helped me realize that I couldn't assume the usage I'm familiar with was the only one. But it did surprise me because it's not something I hear, even from Japanese-Canadians that I've known, or read, but now I'll have to adjust. Is this just limited to Japanese, though, or are there people who use the other -ese nationalities in this way?
  14. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    An interesting question. I came across this usage from teachers and books in the course of my own Japanese studies, but for example "a Chinese" doesn't sound right to me; however, what about "a Vietnamese"?

    I had a feeling I had participated in a similar discussion before, but I obviously wasn't trying hard enough:

    See Panjandrum's response (post #2). his source suggests that this form is usable for Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.
  15. Please let me show you another example.
    Doing business in Japan and working with the Japanese can be an enormous challenge, even for those who feel they have a working knowledge of Japan and Japanese business culture.

    The red part does not mean "the Japanese language" but "Japanese people," so it's incorrect to say "Japanese" instead of the Japanese, isn't it?
  16. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I don't find it incorrect. I think you can use either "Japanese" or "the Japanese," as you like:

    Compact Oxford:
    noun (pl. same) 1 a person from Japan. 2 the language of Japan.

    1 a : a native or inhabitant of Japan b : a person of Japanese descent
    2 : the language of the Japanese

    Those two citations pretty much cover both American and British English. So in both languages I'm comfortable with these:
    Japanese eat fish.
    The Japanese eat fish.
    A Japanese was our chef this evening.
    Our party had one Japanese, two Chinese and three Americans.

    Doing business in Japan and working with the Japanese can be an enormous challenge...
    Doing business in Japan and working with Japanese can be an enormous challenge...
  17. Thank you, Copyright.
  18. michael13 Senior Member

    If parallelism, which usually has a large influence on grammar, has come into play, can we use the adjective without THE to refer to the people? eg This alienation between Americans and English must not be allowed to continue.
  19. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    No, you can't. Parallel constructions rely on having the same part of speech on both sides of the parallel. 'Americans' and English are not the same parts of speech, so cannot be used in this parallel construction. American can be used as a singular noun, and Americans is plural noun. English is an adjective; to make English function as a plural noun, you need 'the', the English. You can't leave off the.

Share This Page