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An European thinks that India is still the land of snake charmers.

Europeans think that India is still the land of snake charmers.

Are both of the above sentences grammatically correct or is one of them wrong?

Also, is using "the" correct (in the first sentence)?

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    If you are referring to all Europeans, then the latter is your choice. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:12
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    "An European" should be "A European" because it has a "Y" sound. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:19
  • @WeatherVane Thanks. Otherwise is the first sentence correct even if it does not refer to a particular European ?
    – user46415
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:21
  • Perhaps "a land of snake charmers", not "the land ..." Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:21
  • Otherwise I would say the sentences mean the same ... "a (typical) European" means "Europeans". I prefer the second. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:24

3 Answers 3

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The first original sentence "An European thinks that India is still the land of snake charmers" is definitely wrong because of the article used at the beginning, since in the word "European" is pronounced [jʊə.rəˈpiː.ən] and should be preceded with "a" and not "an" according to the rules. The vowel "E" here sounds like a consonant.

Use A before words such as "European" or "university" which sound like they start with a consonant even if the first letter is a vowel. (EnglishPage.com)

"The" is correct in "the land of snake charmers" still "a" wouldn't be a mistake either.

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  • Yes. That was pointed out in the comments. BTW is "the land of snake charmers" correct or we should replace "the" with "a" ?
    – user46415
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:52
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    @Blue Since that wasn't in your question. "The" is definitely correct here, although "a" won't be a mistake. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:56
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    This doesn't seem to address the main point of the question, which surely is whether the singular or the plural should be used to generalise.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 7:18
  • @James The main point of the question is "are they both grammatically correct?". My answer says they are! Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 7:21
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Both are grammatically correct.

If you are speaking of European people in general, then the desired meaning is the second. You should use "Europeans".

We can use "A" to mean "one". For example, you could write "A European visitor might think India is exotic, but he will soon find much that is familiar". In this sentence we introduce a single person.

Your first sentence is awkward. Note how I've used "might" in my example, since while I can talk about Europeans in general. It is odd to say "A European thinks India is exotic" since it supposes that this is true for every single European. It also implies (by using the present tense) that this one European always thinks this. The first sentence is an example of good grammar, but bad English.

Also note, people rarely like to be generalised! Europe is a region with over half a billion people. Many European people were born in India, or come from Indian families. Try to use an adjective not a noun for people. "European people" not "Europeans", and soften the generalisation. "Some European people might think ..."

Both "the land of snake charmers" and "a land of snake charmers" are correct. The difference is whether you understand there to be only one such land (the normal a/the distinction).

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An European thinks that India is still the land of snake charmers."

This sentence implies that a specific European individual holds this belief about India. Using "the" in this sentence is correct. It is important to note that the use of "an" before "European" is nonstandard. Most native English speakers would use "a" instead of "an" in this case, as "European" starts with a consonant sound: "A European thinks that India is still the land of snake charmers."

"Europeans think that India is still the land of snake charmers."

This sentence suggests that Europeans, in general, hold this belief about India. Here, the statement is a generalization.

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  • Both sentences are generalizations. "A European" refers to anyone, not a specific person.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 8:33

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