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His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians? Options
Ashraful Haque Ashraf
Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 4:08:31 PM

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Joined: 11/5/2019
Posts: 142
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Do we say:
1) His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians.
2) The majority of the population are Muslim/Muslims.
3) They are Indian/Indians.

I know I'm talking about more than one person but for some reason I feel like it's possible to use singular for 1.
tautophile
Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 5:45:53 PM
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It depends on what you want to say.

Either "Caucasian" or "Caucasians" would be OK for (1), assuming you are referring to "people from the Caucasus" and not the long-outdated racial type.

As for (2), "Muslim" is an adjective; "Muslims" is a noun. Again, either would be OK. The adjective form emphasizes the religious affiliation more than the noun form does.

As for (3), "Indian" is an adjective; "Indians" is a noun, and again, either would be OK...but there may be confusion as to whether you mean "Native American" {i.e., American Indian) or "person/people from India".


pjharvey
Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2020 2:53:44 AM
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In all 3 cases, the singular is an adjective and the plural a noun.
I would use the adjectival form. I don't know why, but I find it more… elegant.
Ashraful Haque Ashraf
Posted: Friday, July 24, 2020 2:25:42 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/5/2019
Posts: 142
Neurons: 4,863
Is there any situation where one would be preferred to the other? Or is it always a matter of choice?
sureshot
Posted: Friday, July 24, 2020 6:10:14 AM
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Joined: 9/16/2015
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Ashraful Haque Ashraf wrote:
Do we say:
1) His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians.
2) The majority of the population are Muslim/Muslims.
3) They are Indian/Indians.

I know I'm talking about more than one person but for some reason I feel like it's possible to use singular for 1.


_____________

1. His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians.

The subject of the sentence is the plural noun "ancestors". The verb "were" is plural. You are not considering them as a unit or a group. So, the plural "Caucasians" is a better choice.

2) The majority of the population are Muslim/Muslims.

The word "population" (= all of the people who live in a particular area) is a collective noun that can take either a singular or plural verb, depending on the intention of the author. Since the word "population" is being used to describe a collective group, it is considered to be singular. I would change "are" to "is" in accordance with subject-verb agreement. Thereafter, I would use "Muslim" since I am talking about a group or unit. A slight modification, will necessitate a different pattern. It will be "A (large) majority of people are Muslims." Here, we are obliged to use the plural verb "are" because we mean the people, not the “majority” itself. We follow it up with the plural "Muslims".

3) They are Indian/Indians.

The subject of the sentence is the plural pronoun "they". The use of plural verb "are" is correct. In my view, I am considering the nationality of each individual separately or individually before arriving at this assertion. So, I would prefer to use the plural "Indians" in order to adhere to the plural sense of the sentence.

It is useful to know that Adjective uses the singular form of a noun. A noun can have a singular or plural form.
Ashraful Haque Ashraf
Posted: Sunday, July 26, 2020 4:47:57 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/5/2019
Posts: 142
Neurons: 4,863
sureshot wrote:
Ashraful Haque Ashraf wrote:
Do we say:
1) His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians.
2) The majority of the population are Muslim/Muslims.
3) They are Indian/Indians.

I know I'm talking about more than one person but for some reason I feel like it's possible to use singular for 1.


_____________

1. His ancestors were Caucasian/Caucasians.

The subject of the sentence is the plural noun "ancestors". The verb "were" is plural. You are not considering them as a unit or a group. So, the plural "Caucasians" is a better choice.

2) The majority of the population are Muslim/Muslims.

The word "population" (= all of the people who live in a particular area) is a collective noun that can take either a singular or plural verb, depending on the intention of the author. Since the word "population" is being used to describe a collective group, it is considered to be singular. I would change "are" to "is" in accordance with subject-verb agreement. Thereafter, I would use "Muslim" since I am talking about a group or unit. A slight modification, will necessitate a different pattern. It will be "A (large) majority of people are Muslims." Here, we are obliged to use the plural verb "are" because we mean the people, not the “majority” itself. We follow it up with the plural "Muslims".

3) They are Indian/Indians.

The subject of the sentence is the plural pronoun "they". The use of plural verb "are" is correct. In my view, I am considering the nationality of each individual separately or individually before arriving at this assertion. So, I would prefer to use the plural "Indians" in order to adhere to the plural sense of the sentence.

It is useful to know that Adjective uses the singular form of a noun. A noun can have a singular or plural form.


Thank you for the answer. These rules make sense and are easier for a non-native speaker to remember.
One last thing. Is it more natural to pluralize 'population' or is it just a matter of preference? As a non-native speaker I like to imagine population as a lot of people in a country thus I prefer 'are.'
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