7

How should it be said correctly when referring to our origin in the current country that we are in? I have two choices between adjective to noun and I'm not sure what I should use.

"We are foreign"

or

"We are foreigners"?

The contexts are as follow:

  • We are in a country which is not our origin.

  • We are in a place (even in our country of origin) where we don't belong to.

  • We ask our children to foreigners or people who are foreign.

  • I saw in my neighborhood a person that's not local. (He is foreign or foreigner).

  • Note that "foreign", except in metaphorical use, means "from a different country". If you're from a different town in the same country, you would say "I'm not local". If you're in London, then Australian is a foreign accent, but Yorkshire is a regional accent. (While Irish is just Irish...) – Michael Kay Mar 7 '18 at 9:38
17

We are foreigners.

is usually what you say when you are in a different country than your native country. Foreigners is a noun specific for saying that you are from another country other than the one you're in. Foreign is more general. It can be used to mean strange or unfamiliar, as well as a slew of other definitions.

  • Seems typically "foreign" is applied to objects or concepts, but not people. Our hometown is foreign. – rogerdpack Mar 6 '18 at 18:54
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    @rogerdpack It can be applied to people too, but in that usage it's often disparaging. – Justin Lardinois Mar 6 '18 at 21:08
12

I don't like the connotation of 'foreign' or 'foreigners' in the English language (particularly in BrE) when it comes to country of origin, other posters have already stated but I also wanted to reiterate it.

Depending on the context you can say:

  • I'm an international/overseas student from X (country)

  • I'm originally from X

  • I was born and raised in X

Or state your nationality directly:

  • I'm French/German/Chinese/Indian

Do go with something that feels natural to you but the answers here have given you various ways that feel idiomatic in which to specify where you are from.

EDIT: Following on from a suggestion in the comments, I'd like to expand a bit on my reasoning above.

In the UK, owing to political circumstances, words such as "immigrant" and "foreigner" have acquired generally negative connotations (with headlines such as these being a fairly common occurrence).

Speaking a foreign language can be derivisely dubbed as "speaking foreign" and you'd seldom encounter the words "foreign" or "foreigner" in positive contexts (for example, when emphasising positive contribution or impact from overseas nationals different words are preferred in neutral texts).

This is in contrast to other languages where the word for something "foreign" or "a foreigner" have generally neutral connotations. As a foreigner, I avoid such terminology when referring to myself and opt for different ways of indicating my background.

  • 3
    I think this hits an important point on the negative connotations of "foreigner", especially in the current political climate (in certain countries). It might be worth expanding on that point slightly - to explain what the connotations are, and why it might preferable to avoid the phrase. – Bilkokuya Mar 6 '18 at 14:40
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    And of course, from legal point in USA, foreigners are "Aliens". Cue scary music... – Peter M. Mar 6 '18 at 19:51
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    Another reason to avoid "foreigner" is that it can have many shades of meaning, from "I'm just here for a week" to "I've lived here for 20 years and I'm now a citizen here, but I'm originally from somewhere else". If you're explaining your own status, you probably want to be a bit more precise: "I'm only here on holiday" vs "I live here now but I was born in Australia". – Michael Kay Mar 7 '18 at 9:32
8

They are two different ways to convey the same meaning.

There may be a very slight difference in meaning because "foreign" can mean "strange or atypical" in addition to meaning "not accorded legal citizenship" whereas "foreigner" just means "non-citizen."

But in the context that you are discussing, that difference is not relevant. Either choice will work.

7

Technically either one is correct, but between the two, I would go with "foreigners". Both sentences basically mean the same thing, but the second sounds more natural. Also the first one sounds almost like you're saying something about yourself personally, as well as your country of origin.

But usually one of the most natural ways to say this would be something like, "We are from another country." It is very common to hear phrases like this:

  • Where are you from originally?

  • Are you from Australia?

  • I'm from Texas originally.

This doesn't just work with countries, but also with states, regions, etc. Another thing that's really common, mainly if you're talking about your country (which you are, in this case), is to just use the adjective of your country. You could say something like, "I'm Chinese," and it would sound very natural.

3

As other answers have stated, both phrases convey the minimal information "We are not natural citizens of this place." If that is all you intend to convey in a casual exchange, the phrases are equivalent.

However, there are additional weak implications that accompany each phrase. They are unlikely to be noticed in casual conversations, especially if english is not a native language, but could have meaning in a setting where people are expected to choose their language carefully, such as a legal proceeding.

"We are foreign." implies we are foreign to 'you', according to your rules. It applies to the group as a single whole. One person speaking for the group can truthfully declare that everyone in the group is foreign as long as he believes that fact to be true, regardless of his knowledge that one or more members of the group may not consider herself a foreigner.

"We are foreigners." implies that each of us consider our self to be a foreigner, by whatever standard each of us choose to use. The truthful speaker must believe that every person in the group individually consider themselves foreigners.

Credit to Baldrickk for initially calling out the difference in a comment.

Neither phrase implies that members of the group are from the same origin. Other suitable candidates do convey this, "We are French."

Therefore, by choosing these general phrases over the more specific; both topic phrases weakly imply that members of the group may be from different origins.

3

foreign is an adjective and means literally "from a distant land" and it can have the extended figurative meaning "strange or unfamiliar".

foreigner is a noun and means "someone who is from a distant land".

In modern geopolitical terms, in a world of nation-states with guarded borders, a foreigner might live only 5 miles away from you. The geopolitical term is foreign national.

0

To me, it depends on whether you are asking in order to use 'foreign' and 'foreigner' correctly, as an exercise in a lesson, or whether you are asking how you should answer in real life. In real life, you may want to say something like, I haven't been here long, if you want to explain why you don't know something perfectly yet, but if someone is asking you, I would think that you aren't obligated to answer them, and can ignore their question! If it's the first case, either the way you used the adjective or the noun is correct, though of the two I would prefer using the noun.

-1

Foreign means we refer to country and foreigner refers to the people. so the right answer is We are foreigners

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