Is the rule 7.8 here widely accepted in English?

Rule 7.8: Use the definite article when referring to nationalities that do not have a plural form.

If it is, does it sound off when one says "'the American' ARE famous for loving sugar" to refer to the American nation as a whole in a collective or generic sense whereas "Americans / American people / the Americans / the American people / the people of America are famous for loving sugar" is okay? We all know that Americans have a demonym, "an American", but French people doesn't, which is the reason we say "a French person or a Frenchman/woman instead of "a French" and "the French" instead of "*the Frenches" as a people. Some native English speakers say it's okay, others don't. And I'm confused.

  • 2
    Americans is a plural form. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 10:23
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems to be based on a false premise; 'Rule 7.8' is careful to specify '... not having a plural form'. / The queries may be answered by reasonable research. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 10:26
  • @EdwinAshworth what if it refers to the popular TV series? You know, the one about two Russian agents posing as Americans (the plural one) to sabotage the country from within.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 22:47
  • Possible duplicate of Nominalizing adjectives regarding nationalities Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 1:52
  • @JJJ That's a different use of the definite article, it's being used to identify specific Americans (the Russian agents), not Americans as a nationality (although I admit there's ambiguity, and this may have been intentional for ironic reasons).
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


I think part of the reason is that recently it has become more respectable to say "French people" vs. "The French". Similar to how it feels more respectful to say "A Jewish person" vs. "A Jew". I think in general, people are moving to "[Natn'l Adj] + people" which may have "the" as its article or the zero article. Some people may have told you to say "The [nationality]" to refer to all people of a country because of this, but that doesn't mean it is grammatically wrong.

But besides that, I would generally agree with the rule that you provide:

Rule 7.8: Use the definite article when referring to nationalities that do not have a plural form. Nationalities that end in -ss, -ch, -ese, or -sh have no plural form.

is correct. But one must take into account the other rules listed as well.

The American are famous for loving sugar

does not sound correct.

Of the options you give for replacement, almost all of them work to refer to a general characteristic of people from America, except the bolded one.

Americans / American people / the Americans / the American people / the people of America are famous for loving sugar

The usage of "The Americans" is where the "Extra!" rule takes over:

Extra! Use the definite article when referring to a specific group of people who have the same nationality.

So this is more likely to be applied to a specific (usually small) subset of Americans as opposed to all Americans. The most common example is when teams are competing on an international stage and representing their countries (eg. Olympics).

If, for example, the American bobsled team was famous for their love of chocolates and gummy bears, then an announcer could say:

The Americans are famous for loving sugar, especially chocolates and gummy bears. In fact, Americans - in general - love sugar.

In this example the announcer is first referring to the few people on the US bobsled team, but then expanding the statement to all Americans.

Trying to say the same thing for "French" or "Japanese" wouldn't be as clear so the announcer might use "these" instead of "the". (which could also be done in the above example)

These French are famous for loving baguettes. In fact, The French - in general - love baguettes.

  • Thank you. It's more than I expected. But does "the American are ..." construction sound natural or acceptable? Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 8:47
  • People will understand what you are saying, but it is not the proper way to say it.
    – katatahito
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 10:28
  • Thank you again. I was just trying to make sure I understand English better. That's all there is to it. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 10:52

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