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  1. #1
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    Why 'THE American people'?

    Why is it that the definite artile THE always appears before 'American people' when it's perfectly ok to speak 'American English'?
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    It is not necessary to use the definite article with American or with any other proper adjective.

    American people eat more ice cream than Chinese people.

    I saw American people all over Europe.

  3. #3
    Steven D's Avatar
    Steven D is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Quote Originally Posted by peteryoung
    Why is it that the definite artile THE always appears before 'American people' when it's perfectly ok to speak 'American English'?
    Thanks!

    The definite article "the" is not used before names. American English is the name of a language. Someone could only say "the American English" if someone wanted to point out that his or her language is different from someone else's language.

    Example:

    "Sometimes I think the American English I speak is not the same as the American English I hear in other states."

    I don't think "the" before "American English" is a very frequent occurence, however. It works the same way with other languages as well. We would not put "the" before "French" when French alone refers to the language people speak.

    They speak the French in Congo. - Incorrect

    They speak French in Congo. - Correct

    The French that is spoken in France is not quite the same French that is spoken in other countries. - Correct


    It's only necessary to say "American people".

    American people eat a lot of hamburgers and drink a lot of soft drinks.

    It could be necessary for the speaker or writer to make it known to the reader or listener that he or she is speaking of American people and no other people. In this case, "the" comes before "American people".

    The definite article "the" would be placed in front of "American people" in a more serious context.

    The American people ... ...

    It works the same way with other nationalities as well.

    Examples from Google:

    "the American people"

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22th...&start=10&sa=N

    Here you can find "American people" and "the American people".

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22am...&start=20&sa=N
    Last edited by Steven D; 17-Jul-2005 at 02:04.

  4. #4
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Thank you, mykwyner and X Mode. I appreciate it.
    Now I understand why President Bush almost always speaks of 'the American people' (e.g. "My greatest responsibility is to protect the American people" and "After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people") in his speech. I think he's just speaking in a very formal way.
    A million thanks!

  5. #5
    Steven D's Avatar
    Steven D is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Quote Originally Posted by peteryoung
    Thank you, mykwyner and X Mode. I appreciate it.
    Now I understand why President Bush almost always speaks of 'the American people' (e.g. "My greatest responsibility is to protect the American people" and "After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people") in his speech. I think he's just speaking in a very formal way.
    A million thanks!
    It is an indication of formality. However, using the definite article before American people does not mean that a speaker is being formal necessarily.

    It's possible to say "the American people" in informal contexts as well.

    But, yes, you are correct to say that he is speaking in a formal way, and he is referring specifically to American people and no other people. It's an indication, also, that he means "all American people".

    If he said "protect American people", it could leave one, possibly, asking "which American people". This would be unlikely. I would call it a nuance.
    Last edited by Steven D; 17-Jul-2005 at 05:12.

  6. #6
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Now I know. You mean people'd wonder whether President Bush's talking about a particular people like Whites, Hispanics, or African Americans, right
    Thanks!

  7. #7
    Steven D's Avatar
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Quote Originally Posted by peteryoung
    Now I know. You mean people'd wonder whether President Bush's talking about a particular people like Whites, Hispanics, or African Americans, right
    Thanks!

    Ah ... that's not quite what I meant, no.

    I meant that not using the definite article could possibly call to mind the question "which American people". This is the effect I imagine not using the definite article might have. It's not something that people would really ask, however. Using the definite article makes the meaning more complete.

    It's more definitive.

  8. #8
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    Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    Now it's clear. Thanks for helping so much :)

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    Talking Re: Why 'THE American people'?

    (Not a teacher)

    A further observation is that "THE American people" refers to all the citizens of the United States as a group: "George W. Bush will address the American people tonight on the Iraq war." It can also mean a specified group of Americans: "where are the American people today (the ones we invited from Los Angeles)?" This asks the whereabouts of this particular group. However, this sounds awkward and it might be easier to ask, "where are the American businessmen/scientists (etc.)?"

    "American people" (without the article) means U.S. citizens in general: "American people are visiting France in great numbers this year." Or, "American people as a rule are poor tippers."

    If you are talking about groups within the U.S. population, then you can use the article or not: "not all American people agree on the war" or "not all of the American people agree on the war."

    I'd suggest not using "people" in this context at all except when you mean THE American people." It is easier to just use the nationality: "Americans are visiting France in large numbers" or "there are three Americans on the ice hockey team."

    Hope this helps.

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