This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Shohei from Japan. He says:
I would like to know the difference between “America’s” and “American.” For example, are there any gaps (in meaning) between “America's people” and “American people”?
– Shohei, Japan
The two phrases have the same general meaning. Both describe people who are from America or are living in America. But there are a few minor differences.
One difference between the phrases is their grammar.
The word “America’s” is a proper noun in possessive form. A proper noun is a particular name for a person, place or thing. The apostrophe -s after “America” shows possession. So, “America’s people” means the people of, or belonging to, America.
However, the word “American” is a proper adjective. In other words, it is an adjective formed from a proper noun. In the expression “American people,” the word “American” is an adjective that describes the noun “people.”
“American people” is the more common way to describe people who are born in America or become American citizens.
On the other hand, the phrase “America’s people” is more literary. It is most often found in publications and documentary films, and on things like historical websites.
There is also one small difference in meaning:
“America’s people” can mean everyone who lives in America, including some who may not officially be U.S. citizens. It can also refer to the nation’s immigrant history. So, when a publication or film uses the phrase, they may talk about the many immigrant groups that make up the nation.
And that’s Ask a Teacher for this week.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
gap - n. a difference between two people or things
phrase - n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
particular - adj. a specific person or thing that is being referred to
apostrophe - n. the punctuation mark used to show that letters or numbers are missing
literary - adj. concerning the writing, study, or content of literature