In today's mini-lesson we explain a complicated area of the English language. We teach you how to use words that describe the nationality, groups of people and their adjectives.
Notice the use of Englishmen to describe the nationality. Many students mistakenly think that it is possible to talk about someone from England as an English. It isn’t. Following the same rule, a woman would be called an Englishwoman. If you want to generalize, you’d have to refer to the English.
The same rule applies to many other nationalities. France, Frenchmen/Frenchwoman, the French. In cases like these, it is also possible to refer to a generalised mass of people as English people, or French people. The reason for this is probably political correctness –before Frenchmen meant men and women- now we tend to call them French people. This causes problems, as students think that this rule applies to every nationality.
Students often say things like; American people always speak really loudly. This is not really correct, (well the part about them speaking loudly probably is!) or I should say, not really grammatically correct, as there is already a standard way of talking about their race. They need to be referred to as Americans, not American people. Similarly, Mexicans, Indians, Egyptians etc, that follow the same structure.
Things can get pretty complicated as some countries have the same name for their language, and a different adjective to describe things from their country. Take, for example, Scotland. A person can be called a Scot, or a Scotsman. Not a Scottish. The plural should be Scotsmen, but again has been politically corrected to Scottish people. Scottish can only be used as an adjective to describe things from that country: Traditional Scottish customs. There is also the adjective Scotch, which is old-fashioned, and is only used in traditional expressions to describe things like Scotch whisky, and recipes like Scotch eggs. Thus, their languages are Scottish Gaelic or English. Scotsmen have it lucky in the English language! Some lesser known countries don’t get given a name for their individual people.
There are, unfortunately, so many irregularities relating to countries, nationalities, adjectives for describing national nouns, and the differences between describing male/female/singular/plural, etc, that it is impossible to mention all. What you must do though, is learn by heart the vocabulary for different English speaking countries. Also, other countries come up commonly in conversation. Here is a basic guide to the most common of these, and also examples that are so irregular that they need to be learnt. There are many more, but most follow the same pattern as one of those below. Just remember that us native speakers often get confused too. Don’t hurt yourself!
Country Language/Adjective Nationality singular The race/Nationality plural.
England English (lang. & adj.) Englishman/woman The English/ Englishmen/ Englishwomen/ English people
Britain British (adj. Only) Briton/Brit (m/f) The British/Brits/Britons (again there is no difference made between masculine or feminine)
Ireland Irish (lang. & adj.) Irishman/Irishwoman The Irish/Irishmen/Irishwomen
Wales Welsh (lang. & adj.) Welshman/Welshwoman The Welsh/ Welshmen/ Welshwomen
Scotland Scottish (adj. only) Scotsman/Scotswoman/Scot Scotsmen./Scots.
Africa African (adj. only) African (m/f) Africans
America English (lang.) American (adj.) American (m/f) Americans
Denmark Danish (lang. & adj.) Dane (m/f) Danes
Germany German (lang. & adj.) German (m/f) Germans
Greece Greek (lang. & adj.) Greek (m/f) (The) Greeks
Holland Dutch (lang. & adj.) Dutchman/Dutchwoman The Dutch/Dutchmen
Japan Japanese (lang. & adj.) Japanese (m/f) The Japanese
Norway Norwegian (lang. & adj.) Norwegian (m/f) Norwegians
Poland Polish (lang. & adj.) Pole (m/f) (The) Poles
Spain Spanish (lang. & adj.) Spaniard (m/f ) Spaniards
Switzerland Swiss (adj. only) Swiss (m/f) (The) Swiss
Sweden Swedish (lang. & adj.) Swede (m/f) (The) Swedes
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