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Nationalities, languages, countries and regions

from English Grammar Today

When we refer to a nation or region, we can use:

– the name of the country or region: Turkey, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Asia

– a singular noun that we use for a person from the country or region: a Turk, a Japanese, a German, a Brazilian, an Asian

– the plural expression the … used for the whole population of a country or region: the Turks, the Japanese, the Germans, the Brazilians, the Asians

– an adjective: Turkish, Japanese, German, Brazilian, Asian

The name of a national language is commonly the same as the national adjective. In this case, the words are nouns and may be modified by adjectives. We don’t use the or the word language:

Do you speak Chinese?

Not: Do you speak the Chinese? or Do you speak Chinese language?

Russian is difficult to learn, isn’t it, especially the alphabet?

She speaks fluent French.

We use a capital letter when we refer to a nationality, a language, a country and a region:

They have studied American literature.

Not: They have studied american literature.

When we talk about the United Kingdom (UK), English is not the same as British. English is not used for Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish people. (Great) Britain refers to the territory of England, Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom refers to England, Scotland, Wales and the six counties of Northern Ireland. Some people from Northern Ireland refer to themselves as British in the context of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. However, everyone from Northern Ireland has the right to Irish nationality and can hold an Irish passport. Irish also refers to citizens of the Irish Republic.

The Scots themselves prefer the adjective Scots and it also occurs in the compounds Scotsman and Scotswoman. We use the adjective Scotch to refer only to food and drink from Scotland e.g. Scotch broth (broth is a kind of soup).

Nowadays we use the noun Briton only to refer to the ancient tribes that lived in Britain:

The ancient Britons built huge earthworks to bury their kings and leaders.

The short form of British, Brit, is often used as a noun (or less commonly as an adjective) in journalistic style and in informal situations to refer to British people:

The Brits have a bad reputation in some countries.

We use Arabic for the language spoken in Arab countries; the normal adjective is Arab (e.g. the Arab World, the Arab Press). We use Arabian in a few fixed expressions and place names (e.g. Arabian Nights is a famous film; the Arabian Sea).

Countries and regions and their adjectives and nouns

The singular noun is normally the same as the adjective (e.g. Moroccan), and the plural expression is the same as the adjective + -s (e.g. the Moroccans).

Country/Region

Adjective

Person (noun)

People (plural noun)

Algeria

Algerian

an Algerian

the Algerians

Australia

Australian

an Australian

the Australians

America/the USA

American

an American

the Americans

Belgium

Belgian

a Belgian

the Belgians

Brazil

Brazilian

a Brazilian

the Brazilians

Europe

European

a European

the Europeans

Italy

Italian

an Italian

the Italians

Hungary

Hungarian

a Hungarian

the Hungarians

Morocco

Moroccan

a Moroccan

the Moroccans

Norway

Norwegian

a Norwegian

the Norwegians

Greece

Greek

a Greek

the Greeks

Iraq

Iraqi

an Iraqi

the Iraqis

Israel

Israeli

an Israeli

the Israelis

Thailand

Thai

a Thai

the Thais

China

Chinese

a Chinese

the Chinese

Portugal

Portuguese

a Portuguese

the Portuguese

Russia

Russian

a Russian

the Russians

Slovakia

Slovaks

a Slovak

the Slovaks

Switzerland

Swiss

a Swiss

the Swiss

Here are some exceptions:

Country/region

Adjective

Person (noun)

People (plural noun)

Britain

British

a British man/woman

the British

England

English

an Englishman/woman

the English

France

French

a Frenchman/woman

the French

Ireland

Irish

an Irishman/woman

the Irish

Spain

Spanish

a Spaniard

the Spanish

The Netherlands/

Dutch

a Dutchman/woman

the Dutch

Holland

Wales

Welsh

a Welshman/woman

the Welsh

Denmark

Danish

a Dane

the Danes

Finland

Finnish

a Finn

the Finns

Poland

Polish

a Pole

the Poles

Sweden

Swedish

a Swede

the Swedes

Turkey

Turkish

a Turk

the Turks

The + country name

A few countries have the as part of their name, for example, The United States, The United Kingdom, The United Arab Emirates. We often abbreviate these to USA, UK and UAE.

(“Nationalities, languages, countries and regions” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)

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