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Problems with Plurals - Nationalities and Occupations

 
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drbux



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 7:28 pm    Post subject: Problems with Plurals - Nationalities and Occupations Reply with quote

Sad

I am an inexperienced teacher of a group of Mexican adults (false beginners). One of my students asked a question which left me without an answer. I would much appreciate any kind of response which might be suitable for a Spanish speaker.

In English we say: I am Mexican, We are Mexican NOT We are Mexicans
Likewise: I am English, We are English NOT We are Englishes etc.

However, unlike nationalities, Occupations do take an –s in the plural form.
Eg. I am an Engineer, We are engineers NOT we are engineer.

In Spanish all these words are adjectives (Mexicano/a,Inglés/a, Ingeniero/a) and as a consequence they all take a plural form by adding –s. How do I explain such a difference and when to add –s and when not to?

Thanks in advance for your help

Mark Buckingham
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 9:53 pm    Post subject: some ideas Reply with quote

Mark,

You actually DO put an S after such words in English when you use them as nouns.

Two Mexicans went fishing.
I saw five Canadians on the bus yesterday.

The harder thing to explain is when you have such words ending in "ese", because there is no use of S. Example: we don't say five Japaneses.
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Roger



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 274

PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2003 3:16 am    Post subject: adjectives and nouns Reply with quote

As Glensky said, it is a question of what type or category of words Mexican or English is, and in his answer, they were used as adjectives.
But the answer is a little short. Fact is that some nationality adjectival nouns take on a plural -S, others not. Compare:
- There are five English/Britons/Scottish/Americans/Danish/Danes
French/Frenchmen/Frenchwomen/Africans? and so on.
You wil find a handful of nouns with no plural marker, including Chinese, Japanese.

I noted in other languages that "I speak good English" is translated differently; 'English" is a noun, and it might be interesting to see what it is in a Spanish sentence. Many non-native speakers translate it as follows: adverb: "I speak English very well".
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Glenski



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2003 9:17 am    Post subject: correction Reply with quote

Roger,

I beg to differ on what you said I posted.

First, my name is spelled Glenski, not Glensky. You've seen it often enough on the boards. Please spell it right. It's not that hard.

Second, my use of "Mexicans" and "Canadians" was as nouns, not adjectives.

Third, I already said that some nationalities don't take the plural. I may not have stated it as lengthily as you, but it was there. I don't understand why you had to repeat what I wrote, let alone imply that I didn't give a full answer.
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dduck



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 265

PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2003 11:56 am    Post subject: adjectives and nouns Reply with quote

Quote:
Compare:
- There are five English/Britons/Scottish/Americans/Danish/Danes
French/Frenchmen/Frenchwomen/Africans? and so on.


Sorry Roger, but you have me confused.

There are five English what? Englishmen?

Iain
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Roger



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 274

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 4:27 am    Post subject: Ooops! Why the 'Y'? Reply with quote

Yes, GLenski, sorry for this major slipup. I have a strong urge that needs to be controlled, an urge to see everyname with the consonants 'SK' as a Slawian name that is followed by the ending 'y'.

And, I also accept blame for having misquoted you. Of course, in "I am Mexican" you have used a noun.

To the initial poster, I would reply: You can use either an adjective or a noun. Adjectives seem to be elliptical: "We are Mexican (citizens, people), but also: We are Mexicans (noun).
Suppose, you are talking about a group of mixed nationalities, then you would use nouns:
- We are five Mexicans, two English (or Englishmen/women/one Englishman and one Englishwoman), several Danes, many Spaniards and one Japanese.
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dduck



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 265

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
To the initial poster, I would reply: You can use either an adjective or a noun. Adjectives seem to be elliptical: ...

- We are five Mexicans, two English (or Englishmen/women/one Englishman and one Englishwoman), several Danes, many Spaniards and one Japanese.


I'm not sure I agree with you Roger. If you are providing a list of nationalities you can shift the noun to the end of the list. i.e.

"An English, Irish and Scotsman walk into a bar..."

Besides lists, nationalities aren't elliptical. In Britain, at least, we would never say:

We are two Irish instead We are two Irishmen/women.

And I'd always add a noun after Japanese.

Iain
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2003 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's wrong with: "She's Japanese."

Larry Latham
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dduck



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 265

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2003 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What's wrong with: "She's Japanese."


Absolutely nothing Smile

The example I used would be "We are two Japanese." Which sounds wrong to my ear.

The difference, it seems, between the two examples is in the use of quantifiers. If you use a quantifier it also needs a noun.

Trying to relate this to the original question:

"We are two Mexicans"
"We are two engineers" and then
"We are two Irishmen" compared to
"We are Irishmen" and "We are Irish"

In the last example isn't the noun "We" and not an elipsed "men"?

Iain
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2003 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"We are Irish." In [this] example isn't the noun "We" and not an elipsed "men"?

I'm afraid you've lost me there, Iain. I don't exactly understand your question. It doesn't seem to me that "men" is ellipsed from Irish in this sentence. To me, the sentence isn't actually, "We are Irishmen." with the "men" ellipsed. Irish is a perfectly acceptable adjective here and nicely compliments the pronoun subject with a common linking verb.

"We are Irish."
However, "We are two Irish." doesn't seem right. As you've pointed out, the quantifier requires a noun form.

But, "We are two Japanese." is okay to me, because Japanese can be both an adjective and a noun. You can say, "She's Japanese." or you can also say, "She a Japanese." Not so with "Irish."

Perhaps I'm missing a nuance in your question, though. Embarassed

Larry Latham
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drbux



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 7:31 pm    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Just to say thanks for your responses - I was able to understand the distinction between the use of nouns and adjectives to describe nationalities and the class I taught went fine thanks to the help I received.

Regards

Mark
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark and friends

Sorry to sidle in at the end of the conversation, but you might find this interesting. We have a song here that celebrates the unity and variety of our people, and it goes like this:
"We are one and we are many, and we come from all the lands on earth ....
... I am, you are, we are Australian".

As well as all the other things you've said, it seems to me that using the "classifying" adjective "Australian" is a way of expressing solidarity (of course in this case it also means we can use the same form to cover singular and plural 'subjects'). But if we use the nominal form "We are Australians" we are thinking of ourselves more as individuals. Does it work the same in American and other Englishes?

By the way, Glenski, you ain't alone in the world. 80% of strangers (and some not so strange) spell my name Rider (the reverse of your problem), but I've probably had and extra 30 years to get used to it (:Sad):Smile?

Thanks all.
Norm
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 7:18 am    Post subject: Edit Reply with quote

Glenski
Don't know where those smilies came from at the end of my last message. I thought I was applying a bit of band aid! Still got to get the hang of this system!
Norm
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 4:54 pm    Post subject: Englishes Reply with quote

Quote:
But if we use the nominal form "We are Australians" we are thinking of ourselves more as individuals. Does it work the same in American and other Englishes?

Norm,

Indeed it does, at least for "American/Americans" and "Canadian/Canadians". I really love your word, "Englishes"!!! Very Happy What a fine example of how flexible the language can be, and it also demonstrates how wrong we can sometimes be when we seek to "correct" our students. I'd be willing to bet that many teachers would say "no" to a student who asked if she could use the word, "Englishes."

Larry Latham
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2003 5:06 am    Post subject: Englishes Reply with quote

Larry
Have to own up (or is it "'fess up" now?), I've been hearing "Englishes" for some years. You'll find it, for instance, on p. 299 of David Crystal's "Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language" -- a book I'd recommend to all language teachers if they can afford it. If not, torment your local librarian until they get it. The first paperback edition came out in 1997.
Come to think of it, I could have first heard the word on Crystal's TV series "The Story of English" which came out in Oz seven or eight years ago.
Cheers.
Norm.
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