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BANGKOK 18 August 2019 07:51
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Grammar Question (sorry).

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I've been been confusing myself this week teaching my kids something really simple. We've been talking about different fruits and other foods and I was teaching the younger kids to say which fruits they liked and disliked. Now it seems obvious that when talking about likes and dislikes you mean apples (for example) in general and therefore you should always say "I like oranges" not "I like orange" as most of the kids say. However iss this always the case?

It seemed to me as I read some of their work through in my head that "I like durian" or "I like pineapple" sounded perfectly acceptable, possibly because these are larger fruits that you would be eating some of not all of but then you can eat a piece of an orange can't you.

"I like orange" sounded obviously incorrect however "I like banana" didn't and these are both of a similar size.

What do you think?

It's really sad but this has been annoying me all week, I usually consider myself pretty good with grammar and this seems so simple that its irritating.

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I think that because the words 'apples' and 'oranges' begin with vowels, you need the article 'an' in front in order to make the sentence correct.

Where as the other examples, durian and pineapple, begin with consonants and don't require this article. Not sure if this holds true for other examples, just my theory.

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So roadie, this is what you tell your students is it?

I like an apples? I like plum? :o Think about it? You're talking about generalities so there are NO articles ... countable plural nouns and uncountable nouns only!

To get back to the OP. Interesting question. Shifting countable/uncountable nouns. . How to decide whether a noun is countable or not? I think your analysis is right....fruits which are small enough to be eaten individually would be plural countable. "I like X " here means "I like [eating] X". Therefore think food portion sizes!

I like strawberries, apples, plums, oranges, blackcurrants, bananas. All of these individual fruits are small enough to be eaten by one person.

On the other hand, when you only eat a portion of a fruit this could be considered as an "indeterminate mass" and thus treated as an uncountable noun.

People do not usually eat a whole fruit like a grapefruit, pineapple, papaya, mango or melon in one sitting.

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nomade, that's what I was thinking however surely the same could be said for banana as well? That's the one that threw me I just said I like banana to myself in my head and it doesn't sound incorrect

Does anyone have a good way of explaining this or should I just say small plural big singular and be done with it?

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I think you can say I like banana, you're not talking about the specific fruit per se (that would be I like bananas or apples or a banana an apple, although it would then need some qualification for example I like an apple a day etc.) you're talking about it in general as a uncountable flavour rather than as the countable fruit???

Of course you can say I like pineapple, or grapefruit or anything that is too big to eat in one go (I like horse for example (no not horse like that, horse meat!)).

Tried to search on the 'net but no joy!

Edited by kenkannif

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Can't you say both "I like banana" AND "I like bananas"? Depends whether you're eating, say, mashed up banana as in a banana pancake (again indeterminate quantity) or individual fruits. Same with mango/mangos. If you usually eat a whole mango, you'd say "I like mangos".

Presumably it's a low level class so you can't have too complicated an explanation. Your big/small idea is simple but I don't like it too much because it doesn't help with the concept of countable/uncountable. All these fruits can be countable under certain circumstances. They aren't uncountable per se. ("Grapefruits" does sound wierd, but I checked and it is both C and U!)

Hmm .. how to teach this. Maybe ask the students if they could eat a whole fruit in one go? If yes, then countable. How many can you eat? (one, ten) If no, then uncountable. How much can you eat? (a little, a lot)

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Countability is related to object portion size and type. If the portion is distinguishable from another portion by its very nature (a unit package, for instance) then it is one item.

Consider the following:

A hair (for single, countable hairs close up)

A person's hair (uncountable noun related to a distant quantity of hair)

A grain of rice (the grains are countable)

grain (a mass of stuff that is not distinctly countable)

rice (ditto)

milk (the liquid- in unidentified portions it is uncountable)

a glass/bottle of milk (countable by portion size)

cheese (how much? Who knows?)

a cheese (the round wheel that we can't so easily find here)

I remind my students, especially when teaching generalization questions such as:

Do you like X?

Yes, I do.

that X must be either plural or uncountable- and warn them that uncountable animal/fruit sound like food. Consider the differences:

Do you like cats? [in general]

Do you like cat? [the food]

Do you like a cat? [um... only the one, right?]

Other examples:

a chicken (walking around and alive, or dead and at the butchers)

chicken (unidentified and uncountable portion size of food)

a chicken leg (a specific countable object OR a countable portion of food)

Hope this clarified things!

"Steven"

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Just to complicate matters, what about kiwis? Surely there small enough to be eaten in one portion but 'I like kiwi' sounds correct to me.

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Well, "I like kiwi" doesn't sound OK to me roadie!

In fact, now I come to think about it, I wouldn't say "I like banana" either. (Unless I'm talking about banana flavour or something) I wonder if there's different usage depending on where you come from? I'm a Brit BTW.

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But IJWT you're using an article first in some of your examples.

Hair is vastly different from A hair isn't it?

I like hair (rubbed on my face).

I don't like A hair (in my food).

Or if you have a bird with lovely hair and you fancy her you could just say I like hair (as in I'm hair man, boob man etc.).

I like a banana for breakfast.

I like banana for breakfast.

I like bananas for breakfast.

All are correct, but three different versions?

Actually I see you're saying the exact same thing (God I'm a <deleted>!).

I'll not edit though as it's nice to look silly from time to time :o

Edited by kenkannif

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I like Kiwi (fruit) is okay and I like banana is okay (and I'm a Brit as well).

I think IJWT has hit the nail on the head with his post though!

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Kenkannif.

You can use "a" with a singular countable noun when generalizing. It means "that class of object/thing" and has an almost identical meaning to the plural countable noun.

An elephant never forgets

Elephants never forget.

But the OP is talking beginner classes here!

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I was just pointing out the fact that this topic is a bit... hairy! ( :o )

There are some fixed grammar rules. For example, some words like "information" and "furniture" are always uncountable in English (but not in many other languages). However a lot of grammar seems to consist of trying to explain "exceptions" to the rules. I think native English speakers USE grammar to convey (often very subtle) differences in meaning. Nothing to do with rules. Most text books don't look at grammar like this. For them there is "correct"" and "incorrect" grammar. The OP's original question perfectly demonstrated how flawed this idea is.

PS. 'Course a hair/hairs/hair are different! If you say "He's got hairs on his head" what image does that conjure up? Is it grammatically correct? :D

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