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Kenny同志

Grammar Question: an American, a Chinese

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Kenny同志

I am an American.

I am American.

I am a Chinese.

I am Chinese.

Which are correct? I am quite confused. I once saw someone get corrected (can’t recall whether by a native speaker or not) when he said “I am a Chinese”, but this seems inconsistent with the OP’s statement “ I am an American”.

So could somebody shed some light on this?

Thank you very much.

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imron

I am American

I am an American

I am Chinese

are all correct.

If you say:

I am a Chinese

it feels like the sentence is incomplete (you are a Chinese what?), you would need to say something like:

I am a Chinese person.

Typically nationalities that end in '-an' can be used as a noun to mean a person of that nationality (as well as an adjective), e.g. Australian, Canadian, American, German etc.

Therefore you can say things like I am an Australian, or I am an American.

Other nationalities tend to only act as an adjective, e.g. Chinese, Japanese, English, Swedish etc.

So sentences like 'I am an English' or 'I am a Chinese' sound incomplete because they have no noun.

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anonymoose

我同意imron的分析。

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James Johnston

It's never wrong to use the adjective form, so if you're uncertain just drop the article. Personally, I prefer the adjective form anyway, because my nationality is just one small part of me.

Incidentally, in colloquial English, "a Chinese" is short for "a Chinese meal/take-away". e.g. "We're having a Chinese tonight."

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creamyhorror

Also agree with imron. You'll find this link helpful, if possibly over-informative:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demonym

See the 'Irregular forms' section:

There are many irregular demonyms for recently formed entities, such as those in the New World. There are other demonyms which are borrowed from the native or another language.

...

In some of the latter cases the noun is formed by adding -man or -woman, for example English/Englishman/Englishwoman; Irish/Irishman/Irishwoman; Chinese/Chinese man/Chinese woman (versus the archaic or derogatory terms Chinaman/Chinawoman, which are not the preferred nomenclature).

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Kenny同志

Thanks everybody.

Sorry for posting under the wrong thread. Imron notified me just now that he had removed my post to another forum. I am delighted when I open the thread that you guys have already settled the question for me. :)Thanks again. Thanks especially go to Imron.

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aristotle1990

"Chinese" used to mean "Chinese person" was in fact quite common in earlier varieties of English (see, e.g., this and this), but this usage is no longer current.

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realmayo

Bear in mind "the Chinese" = Chinese people.

Also, while "he's an American" sounds normal and I guess is often used, do you guys think "he's a German" sounds a bit odd?

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creamyhorror
do you guys think "he's a German" sounds a bit odd?

At first blush, slightly, but then I thought about "they are Germans" and that seems fine (as does "he's an Italian").

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Lu

Imron's explanation looks excellent, I had never thought about it but would also never describe myself as 'I am a Dutch', for the same reason as 'I am a Chinese' doesn't work. 'I am a German' doesn't sound quite right, but also not quite wrong. It does seem to sound like referring to the German(ic) tribe more than to the country of Germany, though, but I might be mistaken.

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tooironic

Actually "a Chinese" has been attested for a long time, but in modern usage English speakers tend to veer away from using attributes as total-noun-descriptors, e.g. "He's gay" is fine but "He's a gay" is considered offensive, same with "He's black" / "He's a black".

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muirm

Am I the only one who thinks using "Chinese" as a noun (e.g. "I am a Chinese") sounds weird? I know it is technically correct, but my ears really prefer "I am Chinese" and "I know a lot of Chinese people" to the noun-form. Maybe it's just a usage I haven't been exposed to a lot so I'm not used to it.

Edit: This is from my duplicate thread that got merged into this one, so that's why it seems to ignore the previous posts in this thread.

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fanglu

It sounds old-fashioned to my ears. Same with Japanese, Siamese etc. I guess it's the -ese.

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WestTexas

I am Chinese is what's normally said, you are right "I am a Chinese" is grammatically correct but sounds weird. Maybe because "I am Chinese" means basically the same thing and is shorter, so that's what we always say

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fanglu

But it being shorter doesn't explain why "I am an American" or "I am a Canadian" is ok but not "I am a Chinese". I still think it's the -ese

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WestTexas

I think you are right, -ese just sounds more like an adjective, whereas -an sounds like a noun or an adjective.

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Shelley

Hello,

I was born in Canada, but now live in England. I would NEVER say I am a Canadian or I am an English. It may be gramatically correct but sounds terribly pompus. I have never heard this used these days. It is very old fashioned and comes from a time when some people were treated as posessions. Therefore they were a "thing" so the use of "he is a Chinese" sounds derogetory to my ears. I wouldn't use it for this reason alone. I would stick to the more friendly "I am .........."

Shelley

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creamyhorror

I didn't even know "a Chinese" was a valid way to refer to a single Chinese person. To me, Chinese can be used as a group noun and as an adjective, but not for a single person. I don't think I've seen the single-person usage in any modern media.

There's Hungarian, Brazilian, Indonesian, Englishman, Welshman - and then there's Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Lebanese. Matter of language rules or something else?

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Lu

This has actually been discussed before.

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