2

I read from an article about this confusing sentence.

since Chinese is both adj and noun,I suppose "I am a Chinese" is grammatically correct just like "I am an American"?

Do native speakers prefer to use "I am Chinese"?

  • 1
    "Chinese" as a noun is a non-count noun. That means that you can't use the article "a" beforehand. When you say "I am Chinese," you are using "Chinese" as an adjective. As a non-count noun, "Chinese" is a group noun for Chinese people. It cannot be used for a single Chinese person. – Benjamin Harman Aug 27 '19 at 1:26
  • (I'm sure this a duplicate.) You can "The Chinese are..." to mean the Chinese people, but you cannot say "This Chinese is..." to mean one Chinese person nor can you say "The three Chinese are..." to mean three Chinese persons. – tchrist Aug 27 '19 at 2:11
  • 1
    It's uncommon, but you certainly can say the Chinese when referring to a single person rather than the general group of people. In fact, in tennis, it's actually completely normal to hear Roger Federer referred to as the Swiss (the Swiss has a set point), or other players referred to as the [nationality]. I've heard this phrasing used in almost every tennis match I've watched. However, it's far less common to ever hear just a [nationality] or that [nationality] without another noun after. But, theoretically, it's not asyntactic—merely extremely unidiomatic. – Jason Bassford Aug 27 '19 at 2:37
  • This is also complicated by the fact that some nationalities (and forms of nationalities) are more commonly used in this way than others. – Jason Bassford Aug 27 '19 at 2:42
  • I think the post I wrote to answer the following question also answers this one: Can I say "A Chinese" in English? It's not completely impossible to use "a Chinese", but as you say in your last sentence, native English speakers prefer to use "Chinese" as an adjective instead. – herisson Aug 27 '19 at 12:01
2

I read from an article about this confusing sentence.

since Chinese is both adj and noun,I suppose "I am a Chinese" is grammatically correct just like "I am an American"?

Do native speakers prefer to use "I am Chinese"?


There are two issues here Grammar and Asian vs America

Personally I would go with the fact that Chinese is non countable so therefore no "a"

You are Chinese is the normal preference. Respectively I am sure that there are few Americans who refer to themselves as I am an American I am sure that the saying is I am American just the same as I am British.

"The Chinese" would be acceptable as a temporary definition if you were the only Chinese person in a group (provided you had no objection to being singled out).


There is a difference between.

"I am a Chinese"

and

"I am an American"

To compare you would probably have to say I am an Asian (not Chinese).

Although American is associated with the United states, so much so that it has become a normal association. The fact remains that North America is a continent and the United states of America is a country on that continent. Because there only 2 countries nominally associated with North America it has become generally accepted that Americans refer to citizens of the USA and Canadians are citizens of Canada. However, technically that is incorrect North, Central and South American populations are all Americans.

In fact the definition of American is: Cambridge English Dictionary American is: relating to the United States of America: or relating to North or South America

Therefore to say you are Asian is the counterpart to you are American.

American adjective

of or relating to the United States of America:

of or relating to North or South America

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.