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I have learned that liquids are uncountable, except for measurements such as "three cups of water."

So, does "three lattes" in this context refer to three cups of latte?

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Thanks for editing Alenanno.A question, why using refer instead of refers ? Does it means "Three lattes" is phural ? –  Sarawut Positwinyu Jun 25 '11 at 16:23
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When you ask a question with the form "Does [subject] [verb] [additional info]?" the verb goes to the infinite form, because "DOES" is already playing that role... :) –  Alenanno Jun 25 '11 at 16:26
    
So "Does" is the real subject of the verb "refer", Thank you :D –  Sarawut Positwinyu Jun 25 '11 at 16:32
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No, it's not the subject... For example "Does the Earth rotate?": "the Earth" is the subject, "rotate" is the verb, and "does" is needed to form the question, I don't remember its role name at the moment –  Alenanno Jun 25 '11 at 16:34
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Yeah. That's the main rule, I'd say... –  Alenanno Jun 25 '11 at 16:38
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This is a specific usage that concerns items on a menu. It is perfectly acceptable to say "three lattes" or "one water" because you are referring to a specific item like a bottle, rather than a substance.

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So in this case we can say "two waters" or "three waters" as well ? –  Sarawut Positwinyu Jun 25 '11 at 16:12
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Yes. It is understood that "waters" means "bottles of water." –  jackgill Jun 25 '11 at 16:15
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Or glasses of water; basically "servings of water". –  Kosmonaut Jun 25 '11 at 16:22
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The prescriptivist in me would like to argue for "3 cafes latte," but I'm laughing too hard. –  The Raven Jun 25 '11 at 17:55
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@The Raven: the Italian in me would argue the same... –  nico Jun 26 '11 at 8:36
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In Australia, a few years ago, Kylie Minogue (aka 'The Singing Budgie') featured in a TV commercial for Coca Cola.

In the commercial, she ordered Two Coke, and this caused some public debate.

The answer came from the Coca Cola company itself, which I can summarise by saying Coke is a trademark and correct usage of the mark requires it to be both singular and plural — Owners of such valuable marks take these things very seriously.

But I'm not aware that anyone considers the word latte a trademark, so it should be safe to treat it as countable as jackgill described.

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Even with Coke, the Cola-Cola company doesn't get to decide what happens to the word in the English language. They have every right to try, but what happens happens. People ask for "cokes" all day long in every English speaking restaurant that serves the product. –  Kosmonaut Jun 26 '11 at 1:15
    
Which is probably why there was a public outcry: firstly because Kylie was heard to say something ungrammatical and secondly because the Coca Cola company took it so seriously. But, then, she was using the word in a trademark context -- namely, advertising. –  pavium Jun 26 '11 at 7:21
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As a native American English speaker, I find "Three lattes for takeout. Is that all?" to be entirely grammatical and natural. Saying that all liquids are uncountable is an oversimplification of the actual rules for determining countability.

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That's because you're using lattes as short form of cups of latte. Liquids are still uncountable (they have no proper shape by definition!), you're counting the containers and/or the servings. –  nico Jun 26 '11 at 8:35
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