"They are Australian" vs "They are Australians"


On the very first page of "Essential Grammar in Use" book of R.Murphy. He wrote

Those people aren't English. They're Australian.

My question are

  1. Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  2. What is plural forms of "English" and "Australian"?
  3. "English" and "Australian" play role as adjectives or nouns here?


Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200

Reputation: 291

8"English" and "Australian", in the above sense, are adjectives. However, while the modern (US) noun for someone from England is "Englishman" (at least for a male), the noun for someone from Australia is still "Australian". So you might have two Engishmen and two Australians walk into a bar. – None – 2016-02-07T03:41:40.153

@HotLicks How can I know that in "They're Australian", the "Australian" here is noun or adjective? If it can be both, that mean "They're Australians(plural noun)" is also correct??? – fronthem – 2016-02-07T03:52:29.393

5In "They're Australian" Australian is an adjective. In "They're Australians" Australians is a noun. And in "He's Australian" you have an adjective, while in "He's an Australian" you have a noun. Simple, isn't it!! – None – 2016-02-07T03:55:48.077

You know, in a book about grammar, I'd hope that all of the sentences are grammatically correct! – CJ Dennis – 2016-02-08T00:26:35.930

@CJDennis - It's amazing how often that's not the case. – None – 2016-02-08T00:46:52.260



Those people aren't English. They're Australian.

In both these sentences English and Australian are adjectives. A singular noun would have a qualifier in front of it: He's an Australian, and a plural noun usually ends in an s: They're Australians. In the English language, each adjective only has a single form, regardless of number (i.e. whether it's describing a singular or plural word), which is how we distinguish each case.

They're Australian. (adjective)

They're Australians. (noun)

He's Australian. (adjective)

He's an Australian. (noun)

The word English is a bit more complicated (or simple, depending on your point of view) because it doesn't have an associated gender-neutral noun, only Englishman and Englishwoman and their plural forms.

Those people aren't English. (adjective)

Those people aren't Englishmen and Englishwomen. (nouns)

He isn't English. (adjective)

He isn't an Englishman. (noun)

We could use the words British and Britons, however, they refer to any citizen of the United Kingdom including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England.

Those people aren't British. (adjective)

Those people aren't Britons. (noun)

He isn't British. (adjective)

He isn't a Briton. (noun)

The English are all Britons, but not all Britons are English. Australians are neither English nor British!

CJ Dennis

Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200

Reputation: 3 832

“Englishman” and “Englishwoman” are archaic and unnecessary. You can use “English” in every case. You just say “those people aren’t English,” or “he is English,” or “they are English,” or “the English.” Same as with “Chinese.” People from England are English, people from China are Chinese. – None – 2016-02-07T11:19:33.133

6@SimonWhite No, you can't say He isn't an English, it just doesn't work as a noun. – CJ Dennis – 2016-02-07T11:23:18.717

1"Those aren't English persons / people." is better than writing "Those people aren't Englishmen and Englishwomen" which is a bit of a mouthful to say but... I like your answer, all the same. – Mari-Lou A – 2016-02-07T13:05:41.757

3@SimonWhite I've never heard the usage you suggest and I don't think "Englishman" sounds archaic. I suppose you mean to draw an analogy to "Chinaman," which is indeed rarely used and may even be offensive, but I don't think it works. – Casey – 2016-02-07T18:01:25.710


One: Yes.

Three: They're adjectives.

Two: The English, certainly, do not use "English" to mean an English person. If you say "he's an English" an Englishman will look at you askance. The word you're looking for is "Englishman," as in the joke format "an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman ..."


A man from ​England


You can also have "Englishwoman":

A woman from ​England


But if you have a group of multiple genders, or you want to be modern and progressive about things, you'll have to go for "English people", however, if you mean all English people, there is "the English":

The people of England


There's no "Englishperson" that I've ever encountered.

All this being so, the plurals you could use in this case are:

  • "Englishmen" (a group of men only, or a group of indeterminate or mixed gender, although some people will take issue)
  • Englishwomen (a group of women only)
  • English people (a group of indeterminate or mixed gender)
  • The English (English people as a collective)

You couldn't pluralise "English" and turn it into "Englishes", or something like that, to mean English people. "Englishes", if it means anything, means different varieties of the English language:


"Australian", however, is different. Australian can be an adjective, or a noun meaning a person who is from Australia:

A ​person from ​Australia


The plural is "Australians".


Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200

Reputation: 1 138

1The plural of “English” is “English” — just like one fish, many fish. You wouldn’t say “he’s an English” because that is plural, like saying “he’s an Australians” — you just say “he’s English” like you would say “he’s Australian.” – None – 2016-02-07T11:06:07.667

I was almost going to upvote this until I reached The English, which is used to categorise a group of people, who would ever say "Those tourists aren't the Japanese"? Or "Those tourists are the Brazilians"? It's not done, unless we're identifying them from a different group, let's say for example, hotel guests: No, those aren't the Germans, but the Swedes – Mari-Lou A – 2016-02-07T13:14:29.517

4@SimonWhite You wouldn't say "he's an English" because English cannot be used as a noun to mean English person. It can only be used as an adjective - he's English. Adjectives do not show number in the English language. One red book, three red books. You can say: He's Australian (adjective), or he's an Australian (noun). They're Australian (adjective) or they're Australians (noun). But with English you can't use it as a noun in this way, only an adjective. The noun is Englishman, the equivalent of Australian, or Pole. Note the difference between he's Polish, he's a Pole. – Au101 – 2016-02-07T16:28:29.547

@Mari-LouA I'm sorry you took exception to that, I just wanted to extend the discussion a bit. I thought I'd signposted that that meant English people as a whole, but perhaps you're right and I was just muddying the waters and shouldn't have brought it up – Au101 – 2016-02-07T16:30:36.110


  1. Grammar looks fine to me.

  2. The plural form of English is Britons as far as my writing is concerned. Yeah I know, don't care.

  3. People and They are your (pro)nouns. English and Australian are your adjectives.

If, for whatever reason, you wished to change forms so you could use Australians, consider:

Those people aren't English. They're Australians.

It would still be grammatically correct. It just lacks the balanced style of:

Those people aren't Britons. They're Australians.

There simply isn't a suffix you can put on the word English to transform it the way you do to Australia.


Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200

Reputation: 386

8 start="2">

  • This will not go down well with everybody. Me, I couldn't care at all, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remains, officially, the country of my birth. But if anybody has gone to the trouble of identifying themselves and their friend as English and you call them Britons, expect a stiff letter ;) So while, legally, all Englishmen are Britons, I'm afraid that really doesn't make the plural of English Britons. You also can't use "English" on its own to mean an English person, at least not in England, you can't :)
  • < – Au101 – 2016-02-07T05:46:11.193

    @Au101 True. But ya know, America is actually two freaking contents. Yet I'm still an American. No one wants to call me a USian for some reason. Go figure. – candied_orange – 2016-02-07T05:51:37.267

    2@CandiedOrange well that's your business, I don't mind what the Americans call themselves, but if you'd like me to call you a USian in future, I'll happily oblige ;) – Au101 – 2016-02-07T05:53:23.157

    2@Au101 If only it was merely fellow Americans who were calling us things. My point was that our language is not orthogonal. Sometimes you run into words that won't do what other words do so you adapt your choice of word. I dare say you did the same when you chose to give Englishmen as an example. Anyway, I'd love to watch you try to try to call me an USian with a straight face you Englishese. :) – candied_orange – 2016-02-07T06:20:08.047

    4@CandiedOrange Well that's a perfectly reasonable point and I don't disagree, but unfortunately, England is not Britain, anymore than Colorado is the USA (it's not a perfect analogy, as the UK does not have a federal system). Now, of course, with Colorado there's no issue in forming Colorad(o)an, but it's still not correct to use Britons to mean people from England specifically, anymore than its correct to use Americans to mean people from Colorado specifically, although all Englishmen are Britons and all Colorad(o)ans are American – Au101 – 2016-02-07T06:36:31.060

    2There is, however, an important political dynamic that you and the OP should be mindful of. In the last election I voted in there was a political party called the English democrats, which ran under the slogan "I'm English, not British, not European". They didn't do very well and personally I went home and wrote a sarcastic Facebook status about them, but all the same – Au101 – 2016-02-07T06:42:26.013

    Let us continue this discussion in chat.

    – candied_orange – 2016-02-07T06:45:39.117

    1English is not the same as British. Britain contains other countries such as Scotland and Wales. The plural form of British is Britons. The plural form of English is English. The plural form of Scottish is Scottish. Would you say: “The plural of Californian is U.S. Americans?” – None – 2016-02-07T11:00:28.970

    @Simon Au101 and I already had that argument. Least Martin is being helpful. Thx – candied_orange – 2016-02-09T04:57:35.167


    The sentence is fine. Although it might be written a little better as:

    Those people aren’t English — they’re Australian.

    The plural of “English” is “English” same as the plural of “fish” is “fish.”

    I could say “here in the room there are Australians, Canadians, and English.” All plural.

    You can say “he is English” (singular) and you can say “the English” (plural.)

    In your example sentence “English” and “Australian” are adjectives. The way you can tell is to put in the implied “people.”

    Those people aren't English [people]. They're Australian [people].

    Simon White

    Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200


    Please don't write the same thing in multiple comments. You have stated your opinion in your answer and people will upvote it if they agree and downvote it if they disagree. – CJ Dennis – 2016-02-07T12:24:52.043


    One point that hasn't been brought up is that you could use "Australian" without the 's' to refer to things that aren't people. E.g. You might say "Those beers are Australian." But you'd never say "Those beers are Australians."

    With animals, it's an edge case, e.g. "Those kangaroos are Australian." sounds more correct than "Those kangaroos are Australians." But the latter might still be acceptable.

    Darrel Hoffman

    Posted 2016-02-07T03:31:53.200

    Reputation: 247

    1Those beers aren't English. They're Australian. – Nick Gammon – 2016-02-08T04:37:57.047

    @NickGammon: Right, but you wouldn't say "Those beers aren't English. They're Australians." That would just seem wrong. Without the 's', it can be used to refer to anyone or anything from Australia. With the 's', it pretty much only works when you're talking about people. – Darrel Hoffman – 2016-02-08T17:58:15.163

    I agree. Strangely, you can talk about anything with the singular (eg. beer) including people. I suppose you could say "Those people aren't English. They're Australians.", however it falls down for one person: "That man isn't English. He is Australians." :) – Nick Gammon – 2016-02-08T19:41:03.073