Governments don't have ethnicities so one would think that it's correct to say 'the Russia/US government'. However, I countless times heard people say 'the Russian/American government'. Which one is correct?

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    Ethnicity and nationality are not the same thing. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:21
  • We refer to the US government, the UK economy, etc., because unlike Britain / British, America / American, the "nation-state nouns" US/UK don't have "adjectival" derived forms. You'll sometimes hear the Saxon Genitive pressed into service in reference to something like the UK's economy (or even Australia's dollar), but the US's dollar is a bit of a mouthful, and completely unnecessary. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


When you use nouns as modifiers, this is called using them attributively.

X Y attributively associates X attributes of X with Y. The association is typically not strong enough to say X is origin/creator of Y.

Chicken soup - soup has chicken, but a chicken didn't create it..

Face mask - the mask is for your face, but your face didn't create it.

The adjective form of nationality words specifically means "originated from that country/culture/nation". So you want to use those when you want to say that.


It's not about ethnicity. "Russia" is a noun, so it can't be used to modify another word. "Russian" is the adjective form, which can be used to modify words like "people" or "government", so you can say:

The Russian government


The government of Russia

but the following is wrong:

The Russia government (wrong)

..because it puts two nouns right next to each other without anything to connect them.

(It should be noted here that "United States"/"US" is a bit unusual in that the noun form is "United States" and the adjective form is also "United States" (they're the same). This isn't true of most countries' names, though.)

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    Except we are always putting two nouns together. "Chicken soup", "face mask". Noun adjuncts and compound nouns. The answer is correct, but the reasoning doesn't seem clear.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:28
  • @JamesK you are technically correct, and perhaps I oversimplified a bit. Noun adjuncts (like "chicken soup") do exist, but there are limitations to when that technique can be applied. They usually occur when there is no equivalent adjective form (there's no adjective in English that means "of chicken", for example), and almost always used to describe a type or category of something, rather than to identify a specific one, or ownership or membership, etc. Also, as far as I know it is never done with proper nouns.
    – Foogod
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:44
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    @Foogod What about a Russia connection, a Russia expert, a Russia strategy, a Russia flag?
    – user3395
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 17:18
  • @userr2684291 actually, on second thought I guess I take back my statement about proper nouns. You are right that they are sometimes used as adjuncts too. However, I think the point that noun adjuncts don't indicate possession/membership is still relevant: "Russia expert" does not mean that the expert is Russian, it means they're an expert on the subject of Russia, likewise "Russia" strategy is about Russia, it is not a Russian strategy. "Russia flag" I would argue is actually wrong. That is the flag of Russia, and thus it should be "Russian flag" (like "Russian government").
    – Foogod
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 20:03
  • To be honest, the subject of noun adjuncts gets really complicated and it's difficult to explain in a way that doesn't get horribly confusing, which is why I generally try to avoid it. @LawrenceC's answer to this question is actually good in this regard.. I'll put some thought into whether I can edit my answer to include some of that as well.
    – Foogod
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 20:04

Both are correct. Russia is a country, not an ethnicity, so the Russian Government simply means the government that is in Russia.

Same as a “Russian Doll” the doll is not ethnic, but it is from Russia. Therefore the doll is a Russian doll.

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    It is not true that "both are correct". "Russia government" is not grammatically correct and is unidiomatic as well.
    – Foogod
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:46

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