I took a test on articles and scored 84%. Unfortunately, the site provides no explanation as to why I was wrong, so I kindly ask for your help here.

Kumiko discovered that there were quite a few cultural differences between the Danish and Norwegians. She had always assumed Scandinavians were the same.

I used 'the Scandinavians' instead of 'Scandinavians' because I though it was referring to a class. Can anybody explain why, unlike 'the Danish and Norwegians', there should be no article?


Thanks for all your help. What helped the most was the thread at http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/definite-article-with-nationalities.1021920/—especially, this part: http://imgur.com/lAT2V8x.

  • The English vs Americans, the Danish vs Norwegians/Scandinavians. Cheese is a mass noun. You don't need to put an article before it. – user140086 Oct 25 '15 at 3:38
  • Articles can be used with uncountables when they represent a class, right? I.E. The water is slowly evaporating on Earth. And your I did not get your Danish vs Scandinavians part at all. – Sam Oct 25 '15 at 3:42
  • What do you mean by a "class"? All those words are referring to a general population of a country. – user140086 Oct 25 '15 at 3:44
  • Okay, my question still stands open - why the is used with 'the Danish and Norwegians' and not used with 'Scandinavians' – Sam Oct 25 '15 at 3:49
  • Now I see where your confusion comes from. In "the Danish and Norwegians", "the" only determines "Danish", not Norwegians. – user140086 Oct 25 '15 at 3:56

There are mainly 2 different ways to describe a general population of each country: "the + Adjective and "Noun + s".

When you use the Danish/English/Chinese/Japanese, etc. "Danish and others" are not a "noun", but an "adjective".

It is a short form of "the Danish (people)" and you use "the Adjective" form because it can represent a general population of an Adjective country.

It is different from using Americans/Norwegians/Scandinavians (or Danes for the Danish) as their nouns end with "n or ne".

You can visit this Wikipedia link and link see how "the English" and "Danes" are used.

The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak the English language. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn ("family of the Angles").

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Ok, so I've found an answer.

According to http://www.englishpage.com/articles/advanced-articles.htm p. 21, the is used to differentiate between an adjective and a noun since 'Danish' can be a noun as well as an adj.

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  • Yes, but the sentence is using Scandinavians/Norwegians (plural) so it cannot be an adjective unless I'm mistaken here, while both the singular and plural forms are the same for Danish (no Danishes). – Sam Oct 25 '15 at 4:04
  • @Sam Danishes are pastries, so a different thing. That said, using Danish here at all is clumsy an awkward; Danes would sound much more natural. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 25 '15 at 4:13

The reason is that referring to "the Scandinavians" as a class changes the meaning of the sentence. When you say

She had always assumed the Scandinavians were the same.

you leave your reader wondering what other class of non-Nordic people are the same as the Scandinavians. Perhaps

She had always assumed the Scandinavians were the same as the Chinese.

But that's not what she's assuming. She's assuming that individual Scandinavians, whether of Danish or of Norwegian nationality, are the same because they are grouped together and labeled Scandinavians.

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  • Your version does not fit the one I found, could you please check my answer and tell me why it's wrong? Thanks. P.S. I am going to take IELTS test, and so I'm trying to improve my knowledge of articles because they've always been my weak spot. – Sam Oct 25 '15 at 4:10
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    Personally, whether there's an article or not, I'm left wondering what it is the Danes and Norwegians are also. For the meaning intended, they ought to have added an _all-: “She'd always assumed (the) Danes and (the) Norwegians were all the same” is fine to me, but as it stands now, it's very unclearly worded. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 25 '15 at 4:18
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    @Sam Didn't you accept the top answer? Still not satisfied? Well, OK. Your answer doesn't tell you what you want to know. Replace "the Danish" with the Danes; replace "Norwegians" with the Norwegians. Scandinavians still can't take an article. – deadrat Oct 25 '15 at 5:13
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    Yes it can. It needs "all". To clarify exactly the problem you mentioned—same as what? Same as each other! – Brian Hitchcock Oct 25 '15 at 6:28

To understand why you can't use the there, you have to realize that both Danish and Norwegians are Scandinavians.

If you say "the Danish", "the Norwegians", "the Scandinavians", this is talking about Danes, Norwegians, or Scandinavians as a unitary class. But this sentence says that two subclasses of Scandinavians are different, so it's not treating Scandinavians as a unitary class, so you cannot use "the". What it means is that

She had always assumed all Scandinavians were the same.

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