by Liz Walter
You probably already know that you can use many uncountable nouns in a countable way with words such as piece or bit:
I ate a small piece of cheese.
Why don’t you add a bit of cream?
However, we can also use more interesting and specific words. Today’s post will look at how we do this with food and my next post will look at other topics such as weather and emotions.
We often use the names of containers when we talk about amounts of food. These might be items of crockery or cutlery, for example bowl, plate, cup, glass, tablespoon or teaspoon, or items of packaging such as packet, bottle, can, carton, tub or tube:
I ordered a bowl of soup.
Add a teaspoon of salt.
She ate a whole tub of ice cream.
The soup contained large chunks of beef.
I used a whole slab of chocolate in the dessert.
There are four portions of stew in the pan.
The recipe makes four to six servings.
He ate a few mouthfuls of rice.
I only had a sip of tea.
With foods that consist of many very small parts, such as rice, sugar or salt we often use grain, while for liquids, we often use drop. Other words are more closely linked to specific liquids, for instance a dash (UK)/splash (US) of milk or a glug of oil:
Use a fork to separate the grains of rice.
I like a dash (UK)/splash (US) of milk in my tea.
Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water.
He fried the fish in a knob of butter.
Several words that make uncountable foods countable relate to the action you use with them. For example, we can talk about a squeeze of lemon juice, a grind of pepper, a sprinkling/dusting of icing sugar (UK)/confectioner’s sugar (US), cocoa powder, etc. and a drizzle of olive oil, honey, etc.
Give the risotto a few good grinds of pepper.
Serve the figs with a drizzle of honey.
Finally, there is a group of nouns that describe single parts of a type of food. For instance we talk about cloves of garlic, sweetcorn (UK)/corn (US) kernels, orange/grapefruit segments and coffee beans:
Chop two cloves of garlic.
The sweetcorn (UK)/corn (US) kernels add a lovely texture to the salad.
Food is such an enormous topic, there are probably many more ways of talking about amounts of it, but I hope this post has covered the main ones and helped to explain the idea of how we can use uncountable nouns in a countable way.