Can we use nationality to talk about things? That's OK according to Random House Dictionary:

the relationship of property, holdings, etc., to a particular nation, or to one or more of its members: the nationality of a ship

But Collins COBUILD English Usage warns against it:

Be Careful!
Don't use 'nationality' to talk about things. Don't say, for example, that something 'has Swedish nationality'. You say that it comes from Sweden or was made in Sweden.
The best vanilla comes from Mexico.
All of the trucks that Ford sold in Europe were made in Britain.

How about places? Is it correct to say:

Q: What nationality is the church in your neighborhood?
A: It's a Chinese church.

If not, what's the right question whose answer would be:

It's a Chinese church.

  • I have never heard Chinese church. You say it's a Catholic church, or a Protestant church.
    – apaderno
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:09
  • I would expect It's is a Buddhist church frequented mostly by local Chinese residents. It's an Orthodox Church with a large Ethiopian congregation.
    – mplungjan
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:26
  • @kiamlaluno: Here's the source.
    – Mori
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:42
  • @mplungjan: How about a Chinese restaurant, or an Armenian flower shop?
    – Mori
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:47
  • Then the restaurant is serving Chinese food and/or owned by people of Chinese nationality. There are no Chinese churches I know of. There are Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, but I have not heard them (officially) mentioned as the Russian Church or Ukrainian Church but you can of course understand what is meant when it is used that way.
    – mplungjan
    Oct 9, 2016 at 9:55

2 Answers 2


The ships you mentioned are a special case - and this has really nothing to do with the English language, but with international law. A ship is officially registered in some country, and that is its nationality, and it has significant legal meaning.

An embassy or consulate might have a nationality.

  • Am embassy has its nationality since, for example, the American embassy in a country is American territory.
    – apaderno
    Oct 10, 2016 at 8:07

Substantially there is no grammaticall error to put any adjective or nationality before men or things as the modifier as far as the neaning is acceptable for example a persian cat or a Persian rug.

  • The OP is asking if it is correct to talk of nationality of a church in the same way it is done with nationality of a ship.
    – apaderno
    Oct 10, 2016 at 8:08

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