You would say 'I have a bit of the English in me' to say 'I have a bit of English 'blood/heritage/temperament.'

Would the following be also used? I have a bit of Englishman in me.

  • If you want to use something even more idiomatic, "I have a touch of the English in me". (This one does not work at all with "Englishman".) – Patrick Stevens Mar 3 '19 at 16:21

The common expression uses English, not Englishman, and would more commonly not use the article:

I have a bit of English in me.
I have a bit of the English in me.

Without the article, there is more association with the generic idea (mass noun) than there is with something specific.

Using the definite article sounds slightly strange because it gives the noun more of a specific quality—almost as if you were referring to some collective people living inside of you rather than the idea of cultural heritage.

But with Englishman, if you were to use that word, I'd say the situation is reversed, where the use of the article would sound more natural—simply because of what that particular noun represents:

I have a bit of the Englishman in me.
I have a bit of Englishman in me.

As opposed to English, which is more of a generic idea (or mass noun) without the article, the word Englishman is more of a specific noun, something which commonly requires some kind of article.

Note that using the indefinite article would sound almost as strange as using no article at all (although in a different way):

I have a big of an Englishman in me.

It's still fine, as a figurative expression, and might be taken in a comic way if used for effect. (But also possibly misinterpreted in that way.)

As a general answer, Englishman might be fine in some context. But if you're not sure, it's safer to stick to English or English blood or English heritage.

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  • I disagree that "a bit of the English" is unnatural. "A bit of the Irish" sounds much more natural to me than "a bit of Irish". – Patrick Stevens Mar 3 '19 at 16:20
  • @PatrickStevens I didn't say it was unnatural. I said it sounded slightly strange. I imagine it's also particular to region and dialect. Also a bit of the Irish is very specific and almost an idiom—it sounds different than a bit of the Russian, because the latter isn't one that's heard all the time. – Jason Bassford Mar 3 '19 at 16:49
  • Does that mean 'a bit of Russian' is more often heard? – Sssamy Mar 4 '19 at 11:59
  • @Sssamy To me, I have a bit of Russian in me sounds like it would be more common. But these are not phrases that can easily be searched to determine anything objective. – Jason Bassford Mar 4 '19 at 15:33

This is an unfortunate "double meaning". Having "a bit of Englishman in you" can be used as the punchline of a "dirty" joke.

The better way to say this is "I'm part English". (To mean "I have an English ancestor")

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