Which one of these sentences is correct:

  1. Italians drink wine;
  2. The Italians drink wine.

You could hear both statements from native speakers. When referring to a nation, to speak of its customs for example, it is clearer and therefore preferred to use the definite article if your intention is to speak of the nation:

The Italians drink wine. The Russians drink vodka. The Irish drink Guinness.

But in the colloquial speech of a native speaker you might well hear this:

Italians drink wine. Russians drink vodka. The Irish drink Guinness.

There, the zero-article is understood to refer to "all Italians" or "all Russians".

You can also refer to the nation via an imaginary exemplar, a single individual:

The Italian drinks wine. The Russian drinks vodka. The Irishman drinks Guinness.

It is also the case that a number of these terms must be used with the article. For example:

British drink tea. not idiomatic

Irish drink Guinness. not idiomatic

French drink wine. not idiomatic

  • The Italians = the country of Italy Italians = Some people from Italy? – Cristina Maria Focsaneanu Jan 20 '19 at 13:58
  • 2
    The Italians (in your example) = the people who are the nation of Italy Il popolo d'Italia – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 20 '19 at 14:03

When you are speaking about Italians in general, you don't use the article - "Italians are good people". In case you are speaking about a specific group of Italians, you can use "the" article - "The Italians that we met at the conference were friendly".


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