Which one is correct?

To put a predicate after nationality

His nationality is Chinese.

To put a noun after nationality

His nationality is China.

2 Answers 2


It's confusing, perhaps because 'china' is used both as a noun and an adjective.

As a noun, it relates to either China as a country, or china (as porcelain).

Here, as 'nationality' is a noun, you need to use an adjective if you want to modify or qualify it - hence 'Chinese' is correct and 'China' isn't. Here, the sense is a direct reference to 'China' as a country.

When 'china' is used as an adjective, it is only ever in the sense of 'a china doll' or 'their china anniversary' - relating to the sense of 'porcelain'.

  • How about if his nationality was of the United States of America? what would you say? His nationality is .?. It can't be 'American' because that includes any one of many countries, north and south.
    – WS2
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:15
  • @WS2 His nationality is American; that term may be ambiguous in some European languages, but is not in English. But by the same token, what English lacks is a demonymic adjective for the Americas; we can say North American or South American to indicate the continents rather than the nationality, but there is no term that combines both (Western Hemispherian?).
    – choster
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:20
  • @WS2 Unfortunately, we citizens of the US have largely co-opted the term American for most usages. If you say someone is American, most people would assume US citizenship (or at least long term residency). Unfair, illogical, but common.
    – bib
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:26
  • @WS2 Sorry, we flag waving, gun toting, SUV driving, latte sipping, gay marriage banning Americans have taken the term for ourselves. South Americans and Canadians be damned! (If it is unclear, my tone is tongue in cheek!)
    – David M
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:35
  • @choster I know what you mean. Whenever I have tried to use the term 'North America' intending it to be a collective of Canada and the United States, I have known people assume I was talking about the northern states of the United States. What is an unequivocal way of saying North America without encountering that problem? Do Americans themselves use the term 'North America' in the way they would use 'South America'?
    – WS2
    Feb 13, 2014 at 16:01

Nationality is a characteristic. When a copular verb is used, it is expressed as an adjective. Country of origin is a place, and is expressed as noun.


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