Why can we say ‘an American’ but not ‘a British’?

I am confused with the use of an indefinite article in front of British or Chinese.
To my understanding, we can place an indefinite article in front of any “countable noun”.
So, we can say a cup and an orange.

But when it comes to nationalities, it is very confusing. For example, we can say an American or a German. But we cannot say a British or a Chinese.

I looked them up in a dictionary as at first I thought British and Chinese are adjectives in the above statement and that is why we cannot place an article in front of it.

However, the dictionary mentions that they are nouns. Does that mean they are uncountable nouns?


The noun for an inhabitant of Britain is Briton.
British is an adjective.

For many countries, the adjective and noun are identical. As you’ve found, German and American are good examples.

The noun for an inhabitant of China has historically been Chinaman but in recent times, the word Chinese has been increasingly used.

Source : Link , Question Author : Feng Rong , Answer Author : Anko

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