Nationality

On this page, you learn all the grammatical details of how to talk about one's nationality and different ways to talk about nationality.

Talking about "Nationality" in English

What is Nationality?

Nationality refers to the status of a person as a member of a particular country or nation. It is often determined by factors such as citizenship, place of birth, ancestry, and cultural heritage.

Asking about Nationality

These days, it is not very polite to ask people about their nationality, but there are cases in which we can ask about it. You can use the following phrases to ask about someone's nationality:

  • Where are you from?

In this case, the other person can answer using this pattern:
'To be verb + from + country' or, 'To be verb + Nationality'

I am from China.

To be + From + country

I am Chinese.

To be + Nationality

She is from Germany.

answering about nationality

  • Where do you come from?

The meaning is the same as the last question, and we can use the following patterns to answer it:
'I come + from + country' or, 'To be verb + nationality'

I come from Australia.

I come + from + country

He comes from Ireland.

I am Australian.

To be verb + nationality

Tip!

There are other phrases you can use to ask about someone's nationality, but they are usually considered rude, weird, or used in documents.

What is your nationality?

Usually used in documents.

Where are you originally from?

Usually considered rude.

Talking about Nationality

You can use nationalities as adjectives and nouns. However, if they have sibilant sounds, they can only be used as adjectives. Let's see some examples of when nationality can be a noun or adjective:

I am a Canadian.

as you can see there is 'a' before the nationality, therefor it is a noun.

I am Canadian

as you can see there is no 'a' before the nationality and it appears after a linking verb; therefore, it is an adjective.

Do you like Mexican food?

'Mexican' here is an adjective.

If the nationality has sibilant sounds, you need to add 'people/person' after it.

A Japanese person.

A Welsh person.

We can use nationalities in singular and plural forms. Let's have a look at the examples:

I'm German.

singular form

The Germans are here.

plural form

Tip!

When we want to refer to names of languages, they are used as adjectives:

German people → German language

Swedish people → Swedish language

But there are also exceptions. We use the word 'Arab' to refer to nationality (Arab people/person). 'Arabic', on the other hand, refers to the language, food, and other belongings, like Arabic food, and the Arabic language. Furthermore, 'Arabian' is used to refer to geographical locations such as the Arabian sea.

Nationality Suffixes

Some nationalities have suffixes. Here, we have a list of common nationalities which are used with suffixes:

  1. -ian (Italian, Brazilian)
  2. -ean (Carribean, Korean)
  3. -an (American, Mexican)
  4. -ese (Portuguese, Japanese)
  5. -ic (Icelandic, Greenlandic)
  6. -er (Icelander, New Zealander)
  7. -ish (English, Spanish)
  8. -i (Iraqi, Pakistani)

Some nationalities are exceptions. For example:

The Netherlands → Dutch

Denmark → Danish

British vs. English

'British' and 'English' have different meanings because England and Britain are not the same places. To be precise, the full name of Britain is "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" which includes the countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. So basically, everything 'English' can be also British, but not everything 'British' is English. The spoken language is British English, but some regions also have their own languages, such as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

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