English Grammar


Plural of nationality names

A survey for a British television channel found Britons are the angriest people in Europe. On average they get angry 4 times per day, whereas Italians get angry 3,5 times a day and the French 3 times a day. According to the poll, Scandinavians get mad once every 5 days.


What makes me wonder, it's why French, although being more than 50 million living in the Hexagon, are not granted a final S as do Britons, Germans, Italians and Scandinavians. Would it be an aftermath of the Hundred-Year War as Edward 3th thought there was left only one sole French man living on Earth?
Would it be the result of the Napoleon campaigns which could have decimated all the French but one?
Would Alexandre Dumas have convinced French that in the manner of the musketeers they are all for one, and one for all. As a result all the French feel they are one sole person and reject the unnecessary plural-S.
Would it be due to a grammar rule according to which all people names ending with a H should never get an S in the plural? Spanish indeed suffer the same deprivation.
Would it purely and simply be a whim of the language?


If there is someone over there who knows, they would be well-inspired in telling me.


[CW]

5 comments

  • Dear Gee,


    spontaneously I would like to answer: French and Spanish are adjectives to people.
    French people, Spanish people. If you say English or British people, these nationalities would be overtaken by the same fate of plural-less.
    Unfortunately French have no double choice contrary to Britons, British people who live in England or elsewhere.
    What about the inhabitants of Belgium, do they get angry at all? As Flemings and Walloons or as Flemish men and women?
    CW
  • It's very kind of you, Gwendo, to tell what you grab about the topic. As you said, French and Spanish may be used as adjectives but I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that in the report of the survey French is used as a plural noun. So says my Larousse dictionary either.
    The French, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Flemish namely are all plural nouns. Their singular sometimes needs an adjective be used, integrated to a noun as for a Frenchman/Frenchwoman or not as for a a Spanish man/Spanish woman.
    French, Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, as singular nouns, refer to the language.
    I am left to keep wondering why those exceptions to the standard rules of plural.
    Thank you for writing.
  • Hi You all,
    I have no solution to your problem but I seek for similiarities, e.g. the colours expressing the skin colour of people.
    Can we say the whites, the blacks, the reds when speaking about European, African or Indian people (native Americans)?


    Perhaps your problem is not a question of singular and plural but- as you already mentioned - a question of an unpossible sound: The Frenches, the Spanishes...
  • Your considerations, Gee, with historical stuff are quite interesting and I count myself lucky being able to add something from my old school grammar:
    The adjective used as a noun to denote people only for people as a whole, an entirety:
    The very wealthy are able to afford servants.
    The blind often have a highly developed sense of touch.
    The English are the best customers of the French.
    For single persons one has to add a noun like woman, girl, man, boy. The same is valid for adjectives expressing nationalities, ending by sh and ch.
  • Woo! Well done, you all!
    I think Norbert exhausted the topic. Thank you very much.

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