Which one is correct? I am quite sure about "I'm Spanish", but is it wrong if I add an "a" before "Spanish"?

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    What research did you do before asking here? – Tim Lymington Nov 14 '13 at 22:58

Spanish is an adjective, so no article. A Spanish man is a Spaniard. Note that for many other nationalities, the form of the adjective and the noun is the same:

  • American, an American
  • German, a German
  • Italian, an Italian
  • Russian, a Russian
  • Chinese, a Chinese
  • Japanese, a Japanese
  • Greek, a Greek

I have a feeling that for most nationalities the adjective and the noun have the same form, and only in a few cases are the forms of the adjective and noun distinct, e.g.:

  • Danish, a Dane
  • English, an Englishman
  • French, a Frenchman
  • Irish, an Irishman
  • Scottish, a Scot(sman)
  • Spanish, a Spaniard
  • Welsh, a Welshman
  • Thanks.. I didn't know Spanish is an adjective. I thought it is a nationality or something like that. – user57409 Nov 22 '13 at 15:29
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    Astute souls will notice that the irregular ones -- even of the form "adjective-man" -- tend to be countries close to England. – Mary Aug 2 '20 at 15:06

Yes, adding an "a" before Spanish, would be wrong. That could be reworded as I'm a Spaniard. See http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/spaniard?q=Spaniard

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    Depends, he might be a Spanish something or other :). – terdon Nov 15 '13 at 0:08
  • That doesn't sound very polite, terdon. – Tristan Nov 15 '13 at 14:18
  • Oh, it wasn't directed at the OP! It was not intended to be polite but was a joke and certainly not intended to in any way describe the OP. – terdon Nov 15 '13 at 14:24
  • As I suspected. – Tristan Nov 15 '13 at 14:29

"Spanish" is an adjective, not a noun. You cannot use either an indefinite article with it. You can say:

  • I am Spanish
  • I am a Spaniard

However, the two sentences are not equivalent. The first implies descent, while the second implies citizenship or nationality. I could very easily be of English descent, and yet be a Spaniard, if I changed my citizenship, for example.

  • According to the definition here ldoceonline.com/dictionary/Spaniard , a Spaniard is someone from Spain. It says nothing about citizenship or nationality. – Tristan Nov 14 '13 at 23:30
  • Spanish (n) 2. (used with a pl. verb) The people of Spain. AHD – Edwin Ashworth Nov 14 '13 at 23:52
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    Oh, I don't know, @Tristan. If I say I am a Spaniard, I do expect that most people will regard me as a Spanish citizen or national -- until I disabuse them of the error, if error there be. Just as my saying I am an American they would expect me to be a US citizen. – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 0:45
  • Yes @EdwinAshworth, I know. But as used in the question, it is an adjective. At least that is my understanding of its use in the sentence: "I am Spanish", is short for "I am a Spanish person". Cf. "I am sick." "I am well." "Spanish" as a noun would be used differently, like "The Spanish speak Spanish, mostly." – Cyberherbalist Nov 15 '13 at 0:51
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    Given we're on a site specifically concerned with English, I think it's only reasonable to suppose we should give priority to the preconceptions of the average native-speaking Anglophone. Regardless of any supposed legal definition (which I'm sure doesn't exist anyway), most of us would agree your're an Englishman or a Spaniard by birth. But there's a global context/history with people becoming "Americanised", so it's not a valid comparison. – FumbleFingers Nov 15 '13 at 2:23

Spanish is an adjective. You cannot call yourself an adjective (with an "a" or "an" or "the"). You must find a noun form, and in this case, the noun is Spaniard.

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    Italian is an adjective and the phrase: "I'm Italian" is perfectly acceptable, see @Mario Elocio's answer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 15 '13 at 7:31
  • Yeah, as @Mari-LouA says, you can "call yourself an adjective" just fine. "I am tall". "I am stupid". "I am slow". "I am Spanish". – RegDwigнt Nov 15 '13 at 16:15
  • I mean with an a. I can't say I'm a tall or I'm a slow. Editing – Jonathan Spirit Nov 16 '13 at 0:25

There is a usage of the national denonymic adjectives (that is, words like Spanish, Dutch, Irish) as a noun, that is sometimes found.

However, it's (thankfully) rare, and generally sounds patronising at best, if not down-right rude.

Don't use denonym adjectives as nouns, as you may sound not just grammatically incorrect, but rudely xenophobic.

(Of course, the cases where the adjective and noun match okay, like Australian, German, etc.)


"Spanish" is an adjective.

There are results of "I am a Spanish...", but there must be something following, such as "I am a Spanish teacher/man/etc.."

You can say "I am Spanish", without an article and without something following.

"Spaniard" is a demonym, always with an article. "I am a Spaniard." and nothing following.

When the adjective form and the demonym are in the same form, the article can either appear, in the case of demonym, or be absent, in the case of adjective, and the two options mean the same, such as "I am a Chinese" or "I am Chinese", thought there are subtile differences between them.

Here you have a list over the whole. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_adjectival_and_demonymic_forms_for_countries_and_nations

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    But this has all been said before. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 2 '20 at 15:05

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