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Nationalities in English

Expressing nationalities in English can be a little confusing. There are exceptions to some grammatical rules for political or historic reasons.

Nationalities are expressed in the following ways:

  • Country
  • Origins
  • Adjective
  • Language
  • Describing a group 

Generally speaking, you must use a nationality with a plural verb. This is because you are referring to all people with said nationality. 


  • Italians make incredible wine. 
  • The Chinese have a New Year festival that lasts up to 16 days.

As we mentioned, there are some exceptions to how nationality is expressed. In a historical and political context, sometimes the grammar-appropriate expression has taken on a racist association. Therefore, they should be expressed in a different way to be sensitive to the nationality referred to. 


  • Instead of ‘a Pakistani’, say ‘someone from Pakistan’.
  • Instead of ‘an African’, say ‘an African person’ or ‘someone from Africa’. 

Typically, the suffixes -ish-ese and -an are used to express nationality. However, when referring to specific cities, there are some additional exceptions to suffixes. 


City Adjective Noun
London London Londoner
New York New York New Yorker
Cape Town Cape Town Capetonian
Brighton Brighton Brightonian
Sydney Sydney Sydney-sider
Paris Parisian Parisian
New Delhi New Delhi Delhite
São Paulo São Paulo Paulistano


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