When I am talking about (the) American people in general, not any specific ones, do I need to use "the"?

  • You don’t always need the “the”, but “American” is considered a proper noun, and thus always spelled using upper-case, as are other nationality/language words like French, British, Spanish, Russian, Métis, and Peruvian.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 19:37
  • I would say that "American people" means those people in general, whereas "the American people" refers to the entire nation, the population. Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


Either may be correct: it depends on what you want to express.

"The American people" refers to such people as a collective unity. So you can say that "The American people elect a president once every four years" to mean "Almost all American citizens of age 18 or greater have the right to vote in presidential elections, which occur once every four years."

"American people" normally means "some American people" or "most American people" rather than "all American people" or "almost all American people." It may be true that American people are fat, but it is not true that the American people are fat because there are millions who are not fat.

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