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  1. #1
    Winwin2011 is offline Senior Member
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    countable/uncountable noun

    Some of the vegetables are countable/uncountable. e.g

    cauliflower C/U
    spinach U
    ginger U
    beancurd U

    Some of the foods are countable/uncountable. e.g

    butter U Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus: Free English Dictionary Online
    butter C/U Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary
    cheese C/U
    noodle C
    rice U

    Most of the above vegetables and foods are similar in nature, why are some countable but some are uncountable? Some of the questions are asked by a child.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    You can perhaps think of substances such as beancurd, cheese, butter, as being masses, uncountable except in packets, containers, etc. Things like salt, pepper, sugar, rice, etc, are collections of small particles, almost too small to see individually, so it's possible to think of the collections as uncountable masses. Slightly larger things, such as peas, lentils, and noodles, can be considered as things that are interesting only when there are many of them, so we normally use the plural form. Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, are eaten boiled, sliced, shredded, so that we do not see them on the plate as individual vegetables, unlike carrots. When countable potatoes are mashed, they become uncountable mashed potato. When countable eggs are scrambled, they usually, but not always, become uncountable scrambled egg.

    Looking at things in this way may help, but sometimes you just have to accept that some words appear to be used fairly arbitrarily in countable or uncountable ways.

  3. #3
    Winwin2011 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    Looking at things in this way may help, but sometimes you just have to accept that some words appear to be used fairly arbitrarily in countable or uncountable ways.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks, 5jj.

    Spinach is uncountable. Cabbage and cauliflower can be countable or uncountable.

    Which of the following sentences are correct?

    1. I want to buy spinach, cabbage and culiflower. (uncountable)
    2. I want to buy spinach, cabbages and culiflowers. (countable)
    3. I like spinach, cabbage and culiflower. (uncountable)
    4. I like spinach, cabbages and culiflowers. (countable)

    Thanks.
    Last edited by Winwin2011; 28-May-2012 at 16:29.

  4. #4
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by Winwin2011 View Post
    1. I want to buy spinach, cabbage and cauliflower. (uncountable)
    2. I want to buy spinach, cabbages and cauliflowers. (countable)
    3. I like spinach, cabbage and cauliflower. (uncountable)
    4. I like spinach, cabbages and cauliflowers. (countable)
    #1 is the most natural if you are going shopping for food.
    #2 is possible if you are buying a lot of food, and visualising the heads of cabbage and cauliflower.
    #3 is natural if you are talking about food.
    #4 is possible if you are a gardener.

  5. #5
    Winwin2011 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    #1 is the most natural if you are going shopping for food.
    #2 is possible if you are buying a lot of food, and visualising the heads of cabbage and cauliflower.
    #3 is natural if you are talking about food.
    #4 is possible if you are a gardener.
    Thanks again, 5jj.

    What does "visualising the heads of cabbage and cauliflower" mean?

    The following context is copied from some English books, are they natural?

    1.The children are cooking. They write things they want to buy on a shopping list.
    Boy A: I likes tomatoes. Are there any tomatoes?
    Boy B: No, there aren't. We need some tomatoes.

    2. Jenny buys some potato chips every day. She likes them very much.
    Can we say "some potato chip'?
    Last edited by Winwin2011; 28-May-2012 at 20:38.

  6. #6
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by Winwin2011 View Post
    What does "visualising the heads of cabbage and cauliflower" mean?
    Seeing a mental picture of these and these.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: countable/uncountable noun

    Quote Originally Posted by Winwin2011 View Post
    2. Jenny buys some potato chips every day. She likes them very much.
    Can we say "some potato chip'?
    I wouldn't- they're countable.

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