Michael is a New Zealander or Michael is New Zealander? Article before nationalities?



Do I have to say "Michael is a New Zealander" or can I leave out the indefinite article "a"?


Posted 2016-03-30T14:42:58.653

Reputation: 363

Your title should be corrected, as it has a (very confusing) additionnal 's on Michael – Olivier Dulac – 2016-03-31T17:18:00.210

Related: http://ell.stackexchange.com/q/80966/

– ColleenV – 2016-05-01T13:32:12.563



You could say "Michael is German", however "German" in this sentence is interpreted as an adjective, not a noun.

It would also be correct grammatically to say "Michael is a German", although this is less common, and in this sentence "German" is a noun.

You can see the difference for nationalities where the noun of nationality is not the same as the adjective: "Michel is French" vs. "Michel is a Frenchman". However, for nearly all countries, the noun and the adjective are the same.

However the term "New Zealander" is a noun and not an adjective. So you must say "Michael is a New Zealander". In spoken English, this can commonly be abbreviated to "Michael's a New Zealander".


Posted 2016-03-30T14:42:58.653

Reputation: 474

2Out of my curiosity, do you find I'm New Yorker wrong? – Damkerng T. – 2016-03-30T17:25:58.640

11@DamkerngT. As a New Yorker, yes. That sounds weird/wrong. – KRyan – 2016-03-30T19:23:45.337

6@Damkerng_T., yes, "New Yorker" is a noun. You could say "I'm from New York", "I live in New York", or "I'm a New Yorker". – ghostarbeiter – 2016-03-30T22:52:57.043

Mhm now that I think about it - why is German capitalized in "Michael is German"? Since it's used as an adjective, shouldn't it be lower case? – Voo – 2016-03-31T17:18:33.990

@Voo, in English it is always capitalized. Other languages may have different rules, for instance French would say "allemand" in lower case. – ghostarbeiter – 2016-03-31T20:36:23.257

@ghostarbeiter Looking it up in the oxford dictionary, they don't capitalize "german" when used as an adjective. Although admittedly I'd write it capitalized too and it looks weird in lower letters. But what's the rule there? Adjectives are written in lower case, except when it's about nationalities?

– Voo – 2016-03-31T20:43:58.570

China is another exception: "Chinese" is an adjective; a person from China is a "a Chinese person" rather than "a Chinese". Actually, it seems that most national adjectives ending in "-ese" cannot be used as nouns. – Jeremy Nottingham – 2016-04-01T11:52:21.860


No, you can't, because you have two nouns on the both sides of "is", and because "New Zealander" is a single countable noun.

If you had an adjective, you would have used no article:

Michael is tall.

If the word "New Zealander" had been in the plural form, you would have also used no article:

Michael's classmates are New Zealanders.

Some nationality words, like "Russian", can be used either as a noun or as an adjective:

She is Russian. (adjective)
She is a Russian. (noun)

They are Russian. (adjective)
They are Russians. (noun)


Posted 2016-03-30T14:42:58.653

Reputation: 36 949


I thought about editing this answer to include the term demonym, as an additional point of learning, but I wasn't sure how to fit in my edit so it didn't sound like a bolt-on.

– shoover – 2016-03-30T16:02:02.190

@shoover - I sometimes post an additional answer along the lines of "Adding to [Other Guy]'s great answer, the high-hat term for this is.." ^_^ – CowperKettle – 2016-03-30T16:41:03.037

I disagree with the implication that New Zealander can't be used as an attributive adjective. I see nothing "ungrammatical" about *Tina is New Zealander with degrees in counselling and education and has been a secondary school teacher and a school counsellor.* It's just more common to insert an article to force the noun usage with that particular nationality (you wouldn't think twice if it had been *Tina is Greek...*).

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-30T16:51:49.997

@FumbleFingers -- oops. Thank you for the comment. I'll shut down my answer. – CowperKettle – 2016-03-30T16:57:08.750


@FumbleFingers - however, Snailboat has found that the book was later edited to have a there.

– CowperKettle – 2016-03-30T17:10:49.843

That "someone" was probably reflecting the same knee-jerk tendency which caused two earlier answerers here to delete their posts. (But *I* won't be intimidated! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-30T17:12:57.763

14As a New Zealander, I can definitely say that this is the correct answer as far as common usage in NZ goes. Nobody says "I'm New Zealander"; that would definitely be considered wrong by native speakers. – Blorgbeard is out – 2016-03-30T19:29:49.930

4And, on the other side, "English" can only be used as an adjective: "I am English" (correct) vs. "She is an English" (incorrect). – Roger Lipscombe – 2016-03-31T07:34:01.830

@shoover - What's a bolt-on? (How can I send a pm?) – Corrina_Corrina – 2016-04-01T11:14:41.380

1@Corrina_Corrina - Something added on to the main thing after the main thing is created. I meant that it would "stick out" from the answer instead of blending coherently. – shoover – 2016-04-01T14:19:12.613


I'm happy to accept that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks perfectly good English, and is familiar with antipodean usage. In that link, he's reported as saying...

...the law applies to you whether you are New Zealander or Greek or Romanian or American or whatever you may be.

People who claim New Zealander can only be a noun usage simply don't use/hear the term often enough to realize that since there's only one form (unlike, say, French / a Frenchman, British / a Briton), it has to be available for both contexts.

HOWEVER - noting the current upvotes (for what I see as a misguided position), and the fact that two answers endorsing my perspective here have been deleted after hostile reaction, you can assume that even though it's "correct" to use New Zealander adjectivally, quite a few people will be unfamiliar with this. So if you're not New Zealander yourself (in which case they might allow that you know how to refer to yourself), they may dismiss your usage as "incorrect" (especially if they know you're not even a native Anglophone).

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-03-30T14:42:58.653

Reputation: 52 587

3+1. I would keep in mind that he speaks perfectly good Australian English (probably? I don't speak Australian English so I can't say for sure). Not all leaders speak their language well (George W. Bush for example). But he does not necessarily speak good American or British English or even New Zealander English. – Necreaux – 2016-03-30T17:15:26.890

@Necreaux: The usage goes back a long way - here's the Governor of New Zealand in 1864: *I have also enclosed with the letter a New Zealander newspaper monthly summary*

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-30T17:21:45.837

5Either way, I think if you say "Michael is New Zealander" with a non-native accent to an American, they don't think you are speaking idiomatic antipodean English, they'll think you made a mistake. – Paul – 2016-03-30T18:54:20.770

12As a New Zealander myself, I never hear this usage. If you said it to me, I'd assume you'd made a mistake as well. In fact, I'd suspect the quote "the law applies to you whether you are New Zealander.." is a typo or speech error. – Blorgbeard is out – 2016-03-30T19:23:51.810

7@FumbleFingers: "New Zealander" was the actual name of a newspaper; this is the same usage as "a New York Times newspaper monthly summary". Otherwise it would be "a New Zealand newspaper". – Michael Homer – 2016-03-30T20:00:44.430

Pearse, in true New Zealander style, couldn't be bothered to document his heroic attempts. I realize it's not a common usage, and people often rephrase to avoid the issue. But to my mind it is a legitimate form, and competent speakers do resort to it occasionally, faute de mieux. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-31T12:36:54.803


I'll just flag up one usage where the context really forces the issue... Australian or New Zealander accent. There are 5 of those in Google Books (as opposed to 38 for *Australian or New Zealand accent*, from writers who jumped the other way on this inherently awkward choice).

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-31T12:43:39.700

We call our New Zealand expats Kiwis in my part of the US, so it doesn't surprise me that folks think "New Zealander" should be different from "French". It's like the Netherlands and Dutch. Netherlander is too much of a mouthful. I'm not disagreeing with you though, just making an observation. – ColleenV – 2016-03-31T13:34:08.370

1@ColleenV: I'm certainly not claiming adjectival *New Zealander* is more "correct" than forcing the "noun adjunct" syntax onto the base form *New Zealand*. But so far as I'm concerned there's no universally-recognized authority in a position to lay down the law on this one. The issue here isn't about teaching learners which usage is "correct" - it's about recognizing that competent native speakers can and do sometimes ignore the prevailing orthodoxy (even when they know they're in a minority, which I'm sure is often the case). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-31T13:46:44.557

@FumbleFingers Same as if you are a Canadian, or a Mexican, you will still be an American. But the overt and worldwide use of the word "American" to refer to only the people from the United States of America will be deemed incorrect if applied to the people of Canada, or Mexico. But the fact doesn't change. "New Zealander" without the indefinite article is lessly used as an adjective could be the case of misguidance. perhaps it's the sound of saying "a new zealander" is more natural and common. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/learner-english/new-zealand

– Usernew – 2016-03-31T14:22:59.737

@Usernew: I guess it depends whether you think there's only one correct usage here (and by implication you believe that dictionaries by definition define the correct usage, making all alternatives inherently "incorrect"). I don't subscribe to that view. So far as I'm concerned, some usages involve "grey areas", and this is one of them. It still behooves learners to recognize that noun adjunct *New Zealand* is the more common adjectival usage, but that doesn't somehow make the alternative "incorrect", or prove that people who do use it are automatically not "competent" speakers/writers. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-31T14:40:12.403

1(But that doesn't mean "anything goes" - I don't think many if any competent speakers would endorse *lessly used*, for example, except maybe as a "facetious" usage! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-03-31T14:47:27.747

@FumbleFingers That's exactly what I am saying. PS - I don't subscribe to that view either. :) – Usernew – 2016-03-31T15:35:36.753

1"New Zealander style", "New Zealander accent" are not the same usage as "is New Zealander". I think you recognise that since you've called it a "noun adjunct" later on, but that means they're just not relevant evidence for this question. – Michael Homer – 2016-03-31T19:49:55.857

@Michael Homer: I never intended to explicitly characterize New Englander as a noun adjunct (nor can I see where I did), but since you've brought it up I don't deny that they're both noun adjuncts - the only difference being whether the relevant noun ordinarily identifies the country, or a denizen thereof. When there is no "dedicated" adjectival form, it's just a matter of which noun to choose, and although idiomatic preference has largely settled on "country" here, in most other similar situations where that applies, we actually usually use the denonym, not the country name. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-04-01T12:59:18.697


My opinion is based on English per Oxford and not Webster rendition. In the case stated, the correct delivery is:

Michael is a New Zealander

as predicated by the grammar rule of requiring a noun, verb transitive, and an object to make a sentence. In this case, Michael is the subject, is: the verb transitive, and New Zealander the descriptive object.

If you say Michael's, you are denoting possession of, or "of Michael" which is the grammatical origin of the apostrophe, and which in this case renders absurd meaning to tge sentence, since Michael cannot reasonably own New Zealand.

In modern parlance, the apostrophe s is a manifestation of an entity used linguistically, called "elision", and although not grammatically correct has become accepted, and it is the joining of 2 words together to form one, with the dropped letters by so doing, indicated by the apostrophe. So in this case, Michael and the verb is are "elided" into one word, being Michaels, or Michael's denoting " Michael is ", rather than it " belongs to Michael". I would imagine this to be more of a Webster accepted connivance, rather than that of Oxford.


Posted 2016-03-30T14:42:58.653

Reputation: 1

"Michael cannot reasonably own a New Zealander", probably – CowperKettle – 2016-03-31T03:27:28.857

4Your answer is not going to be well-received, regardless of which account it is submitted under, so long as you persist in calling is a transitive verb and New Zealander its object, and in confusing the OP's use of the contraction Michael's for a possessive. – choster – 2016-03-31T04:27:19.470