Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In this picture there are "three breads", but they are not loaves because loaves can be cut into pieces, and they are not slices either because they weren't cut with a knife.

http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/kozzi/kozzi1209/kozzi120900081/15267167-three-breads-on-a-wooden-plank.jpg

So the only way to refer to them is three pieces of bread? Can the word servings be used?

share|improve this question
12  
Those are loaves of bread. I wouldn't call them pieces of bread. They're whole loaves. Or if you consider them too small to be "loaves", buns. Or rolls. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 28 '13 at 22:08
2  
@Pedro Loaves come in many shapes and sizes. –  StoneyB Jul 28 '13 at 22:18
5  
I think you could say there are three breads: something like poppy-seed bread, plain white bread, and sesame-seed bread. –  Henry Jul 28 '13 at 22:37
3  
@Mitch: Except in Henry's context. "We sell three breads in this bakery: white, poppy-seed, and seseme seed." –  J.R. Jul 28 '13 at 22:52
5  
As in many languages, one must use a classifier for uncountable nouns when they are counted: a head of lettuce, a piece of chocolate, a loaf of bread. In Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesian, for instance, all nouns are uncountable, and one must use an appropriate classifier when counting anything. –  John Lawler Jul 28 '13 at 22:52
show 7 more comments

2 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

In Britain, a loaf of bread would generally be anything big enough to be cut into multiple slices of bread, e.g. for making sandwiches. So this is a loaf, and at least the one on the left of this picture is a loaf.

The items in the second picture that are small enough to be just 1 - 2 portions, would be rolls. Buns tend to be sweeter than rolls, although a soft roll containing raisins and currants is often called a currant bun.

Normally, bread is an uncountable noun. Having said that, searching Google for "three breads" does give many hits. Specifically:

  1. "Three breads" may be used to mean "three types of bread", e.g.:
    Salmon and Scrambled Egg with three breads here
    BLT choice of three breads, mine was a baguette here
  2. The term is used biblically and in sermons, etc., e.g.:
    “Three Breads” - John 6:24-35 here
  3. There appears to be a place in New Zealand, named "Three Breads & 2 Fishes"

The search also revealed a forum discussion here on the subject "How to ask for two 'breads'", which included the following comment:

Sorry, but I have never heard anyone say "2 breads" when 2 loaves is meant.
The only time that "breads" could be used, is if different types of bread is meant.
For example.
I have to buy three breads: a loaf of gluten-free for Rose, two loaves of sour-dough rye for Daisy, and a white loaf for Hyacinth.

I'll leave others to search further if desired.

To address the final sub-question, "Can the word servings be used?":

One can talk of "servings of bread", but the items in the picture would not normally be described to in that way.

The expression "servings of bread" could be used in a restaurant, but its meaning would depend on how the restaurant serves their breads. [I have intentionally used the plural there, which I think is acceptable in this context.]

A serving of bread would be the amount of bread that the restaurant normally serves for one person, such as two slices of bread; one bread roll; a few bread sticks; etc.. You would refer to three rolls as "three servings of bread" only if the restaurant normally served one bread roll per person.

share|improve this answer
2  
I can add that that your description is also consistent with central Canadian usage. –  Pieter Geerkens Jul 28 '13 at 22:51
    
thanks for the explanation! I just don't understand yet what exactly is a roll bread? In thefreedictionary.com/roll I found 2 definitions that were contraditory: a) A small rounded portion of bread and b) A portion of food shaped like a tube with a filling. So is it rounded or long? –  Pedro Jul 28 '13 at 23:59
3  
@Pedro Rolls when referring to breads can be either tubular, round or a rounded square or rectangle. The principle characteristic is that it is a single serving of a bread-like item. The term roll stands alone and is not generally coupled with the term bread. –  bib Jul 29 '13 at 0:20
1  
@bib I've often heard "bread roll," but maybe that's an Australian regionalism? –  user867 Jul 29 '13 at 3:54
    
@user867 There are many modifiers of rolls, at least in the northeastern US (I defer to experts on other regions), such as dinner, sweet, hard, poppy, kaiser, sourdough, etc., but bread is not often heard as one of them. –  bib Jul 29 '13 at 4:08
show 2 more comments

The accepted answer is correct, but I think an answer that is both more general and simpler, is that words are not countable or uncountable, senses are countable or uncountable.

In this case, bread in the sense of the stuff you get when you bake bread-dough, is uncountable. You can't say "three breads" in this sense.

Bread in the sense of a sort of bread in the first sense, is countable, and so you can say the picture shows three breads (a poppy-seed bread, a sesame-seed bread and a plainer bread).

So far this is all covered by the accepted answer here. What's worth adding, is that this goes for all other words too: In talking about countable or uncountable, one must address senses of words, not words themselves.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.