I am baffled by a sentence that I came across in a book recently. "Americans are a very practical people". Why do we need the article "a" here?

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    Answered by bye at Are there meta-plurals beyond "peoples"?, but lack of research is the obvious problem. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 7 '17 at 10:43
  • Try either The Americans are a… which refers to the people collectively, or Americans are… which refers to the general characteristics of the group of individuals. Consider instead, Negroes are dark-skinned people as against The negroes are a dark-skinned people. – Robbie Goodwin Oct 8 '17 at 17:48

Because, in this sense of the word, 'a people' is equivalent to 'a nation', that is, the inhabitants of a country taken as a whole.

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