Do I have to say "Michael is a New Zealander" or can I leave out the indefinite article "a"?


4 Answers 4


You could say "Michael is German", however "German" in this sentence is interpreted as an adjective, not a noun.

It would also be correct grammatically to say "Michael is a German", although this is less common, and in this sentence "German" is a noun.

You can see the difference for nationalities where the noun of nationality is not the same as the adjective: "Michel is French" vs. "Michel is a Frenchman". However, for nearly all countries, the noun and the adjective are the same.

However the term "New Zealander" is a noun and not an adjective. So you must say "Michael is a New Zealander". In spoken English, this can commonly be abbreviated to "Michael's a New Zealander".

  • 2
    Out of my curiosity, do you find I'm New Yorker wrong? Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:25
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    @DamkerngT. As a New Yorker, yes. That sounds weird/wrong.
    – KRyan
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 19:23
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    @Damkerng_T., yes, "New Yorker" is a noun. You could say "I'm from New York", "I live in New York", or "I'm a New Yorker". Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 22:52
  • Mhm now that I think about it - why is German capitalized in "Michael is German"? Since it's used as an adjective, shouldn't it be lower case?
    – Voo
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 17:18
  • @Voo, in English it is always capitalized. Other languages may have different rules, for instance French would say "allemand" in lower case. Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 20:36

No, you can't, because you have two nouns on the both sides of "is", and because "New Zealander" is a single countable noun.

If you had an adjective, you would have used no article:

Michael is tall.

If the word "New Zealander" had been in the plural form, you would have also used no article:

Michael's classmates are New Zealanders.

Some nationality words, like "Russian", can be used either as a noun or as an adjective:

She is Russian. (adjective)
She is a Russian. (noun)

They are Russian. (adjective)
They are Russians. (noun)

  • 2
    I thought about editing this answer to include the term demonym, as an additional point of learning, but I wasn't sure how to fit in my edit so it didn't sound like a bolt-on.
    – shoover
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 16:02
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    @FumbleFingers - however, Snailboat has found that the book was later edited to have a there. Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:10
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    As a New Zealander, I can definitely say that this is the correct answer as far as common usage in NZ goes. Nobody says "I'm New Zealander"; that would definitely be considered wrong by native speakers.
    – Blorgbeard
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 19:29
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    And, on the other side, "English" can only be used as an adjective: "I am English" (correct) vs. "She is an English" (incorrect). Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 7:34
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    @Corrina_Corrina - Something added on to the main thing after the main thing is created. I meant that it would "stick out" from the answer instead of blending coherently.
    – shoover
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 14:19

I'm happy to accept that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks perfectly good English, and is familiar with antipodean usage. In that link, he's reported as saying...

...the law applies to you whether you are New Zealander or Greek or Romanian or American or whatever you may be.

People who claim New Zealander can only be a noun usage simply don't use/hear the term often enough to realize that since there's only one form (unlike, say, French / a Frenchman, British / a Briton), it has to be available for both contexts.

HOWEVER - noting the current upvotes (for what I see as a misguided position), and the fact that two answers endorsing my perspective here have been deleted after hostile reaction, you can assume that even though it's "correct" to use New Zealander adjectivally, quite a few people will be unfamiliar with this. So if you're not New Zealander yourself (in which case they might allow that you know how to refer to yourself), they may dismiss your usage as "incorrect" (especially if they know you're not even a native Anglophone).

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    +1. I would keep in mind that he speaks perfectly good Australian English (probably? I don't speak Australian English so I can't say for sure). Not all leaders speak their language well (George W. Bush for example). But he does not necessarily speak good American or British English or even New Zealander English.
    – Necreaux
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:15
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    Either way, I think if you say "Michael is New Zealander" with a non-native accent to an American, they don't think you are speaking idiomatic antipodean English, they'll think you made a mistake.
    – Paul
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 18:54
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    As a New Zealander myself, I never hear this usage. If you said it to me, I'd assume you'd made a mistake as well. In fact, I'd suspect the quote "the law applies to you whether you are New Zealander.." is a typo or speech error.
    – Blorgbeard
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 19:23
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    @FumbleFingers: "New Zealander" was the actual name of a newspaper; this is the same usage as "a New York Times newspaper monthly summary". Otherwise it would be "a New Zealand newspaper". Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 20:00
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    I'll just flag up one usage where the context really forces the issue... Australian or New Zealander accent. There are 5 of those in Google Books (as opposed to 38 for Australian or New Zealand accent, from writers who jumped the other way on this inherently awkward choice). Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 12:43

My opinion is based on English per Oxford and not Webster rendition. In the case stated, the correct delivery is:

Michael is a New Zealander

as predicated by the grammar rule of requiring a noun, verb transitive, and an object to make a sentence. In this case, Michael is the subject, is: the verb transitive, and New Zealander the descriptive object.

If you say Michael's, you are denoting possession of, or "of Michael" which is the grammatical origin of the apostrophe, and which in this case renders absurd meaning to tge sentence, since Michael cannot reasonably own New Zealand.

In modern parlance, the apostrophe s is a manifestation of an entity used linguistically, called "elision", and although not grammatically correct has become accepted, and it is the joining of 2 words together to form one, with the dropped letters by so doing, indicated by the apostrophe. So in this case, Michael and the verb is are "elided" into one word, being Michaels, or Michael's denoting " Michael is ", rather than it " belongs to Michael". I would imagine this to be more of a Webster accepted connivance, rather than that of Oxford.

  • "Michael cannot reasonably own a New Zealander", probably Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 3:27
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    Your answer is not going to be well-received, regardless of which account it is submitted under, so long as you persist in calling is a transitive verb and New Zealander its object, and in confusing the OP's use of the contraction Michael's for a possessive.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 4:27

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