English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When talking about someone from India, rather than a Native American, is it normal to use "Indian" as a noun?

For example, "The shop-keeper was an Indian."

The person using this word is probably learning American English.

share|improve this question
Is there any particular dialect you are interested in? There may be differences in usage in different parts of the world. – choster Feb 14 '14 at 16:01
@choster thanks - I've edited the question to say the person is probably learning American English. – Andrew Grimm Feb 14 '14 at 22:23
Equivalent question on ELU: english.stackexchange.com/questions/9641/… – Andrew Grimm Jun 6 '15 at 3:04
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Nice question! Let the native speakers shed more light on it but being an Indian, I'd like to express my views here.

"Is it normal to use "Indian" as a noun." -That's absolutely fine to me. And, I'm an Indian!

Commonly, we come across Native used with American. I think that's because when you say Native American it implies to a particular group of people.

Native American (n) - Any member of the peoples living in North or South America before the Europeans arrived.

The US has diversified history (and still going on?) of lot of immigrants from several continents.

However, India does not show those many (frequent?) migrations from several continents (maybe, there are many who migrate but then they are from nearby countries like Nepal, Bangladesh etc.).

Referring to an Indian as an Indian is okay. In fact, being an Indian, if you call me a native Indian, it will sound strange to me.

Note: This is interesting. In a survey conducted in 1995, most Native Americans referred to themselves as American Indians or simply Indians.

share|improve this answer
I have indeed not met anyone from India so far who seemed to think it strange or who used any alternative to the designation "Indian" for someone from India. Honestly, I think it would be strange to look for an alternative, simply because of some mix-up in the naming of completely unrelated people on the other side of the world :) – oerkelens Feb 14 '14 at 8:05

Yeah, it's normal, including in the sentence you provided. A little more often, that sentence would be

The shopkeeper was Indian.

However either form is normal.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.