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Which expression is more idiomatic or correct:

  • We are American
  • We are Americans

Should I use American in the singular or in the plural form? And why?

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marked as duplicate by TimLymington, FumbleFingers, kiamlaluno, choster, medica May 10 at 0:06

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Yes. Use whichever one you meant to use. Someone will probably give you the grammatical explanation of why this is possible. –  F.E. May 9 at 20:05
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The first is an adjectival use of American; the second a substantive use. Substantives are adjectives used as nouns. Thus the phrases I am Canadian and we are Canadian use Canadian adjectivally (as an adjective), but I am a Canadian and we are Canadians use the word substantively (as a noun). –  Anonym May 9 at 20:28
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@user61979 is absolutely correct, and emphasises a very important point (that I was just about to emphasise, too). Just a small detail, though: a substantive is just a noun; it is not necessarily an adjective used as a noun specifically. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet May 9 at 20:30
    
In this case the adjective is the same as the denonym, but that isn't always the case: "we are American" corresponds to "we are Danish", while "we are Americans" corresponds to "we are Danes". Both of these are fine; just don't say "I am a Danish". –  Peter Shor May 9 at 20:37

2 Answers 2

You can virtually force one version or the other by context:

Are you Americans or Canadians? ...

Are you Canadian? ...

I don't think RyeɃreḁd's answer will really stand much scrutiny, though doubtless there are factors nudging one's choice one way or the other. And it is a choice:

We are American / I am American

'American' here is a (proper) adjective; compare 'We are cold'. It has no 'plural form'.

We are Americans / I am an American

'Americans' and 'American' here are proper nouns; compare 'We are doctors'.

An Ngram shows that both constructions are commonly used. But you wouldn't get many Brits, standing in a defined group of people or otherwise, volunteering 'We are Britons' / 'Englishmen'. 'We are British' / 'English' is the far more usual way of putting this (as further Ngrams illustrate).

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You would say "We are Americans" if you are standing in a defined group of people (can be counted) and talking about your group as individuals.

You would say "We are American" if talking about an abstract uncountable population or a group of people that will stay grouped.

Usage:

Going through customs with your family, you are asked "What nationality are each of you?" Answer, "We are Americans."

Person in a foreign country asks, "Is the new group of doctors from the U.S. or Canada?" Answer, "We are American."

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