Submitted by Dyske  •  December 5, 2003

The Americans

When you say “Americans” to mean the American people, do you need “the”? What is the difference between with and without “the” for any nationality? E.g. “The Germans” vs. “Germans”, “The French” vs. “French”.

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First there's a difference between adjective and plural noun. With adjectives, like French or Chinese, you have to use 'the' to refer to the people: The French eat a lot of garlic, and the Chinese eat rice.

With adjectival forms like Norwegian(s) and American(s), you can use either: (The) Norwegians like skiing.

It's hard to see much difference in generalizations like these. Perhaps there's a bit of a sense that when you ass 'the' you're speaking about more of them, or the nation as a whole rather than just a typical group of them.

Of course without 'the' it can mean 'some', not necessarily a big number: Irish fought in the Second World War (e.g. with the RAF), but you can't say The Irish fought..., because the country wasn't involved.

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me again. *cough* ass -> add in third para. Ta.

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