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.


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

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    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
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    @Pedro Loaves come in many shapes and sizes. – StoneyB Jul 28 '13 at 22:18
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    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
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    @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
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    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

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.

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    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
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    @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
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    @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

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.


Bread is a category of substance, like plastic; you don't say "three plastics" to mean three pieces of plastic, but to mean three kinds of plastic. The distinction between a loaf and a slice is what you've made that substance into; a loaf of plastic would be odd, but a bread bowl is an interesting novelty.


I perceive we are forgetting the essential part of the uncountable nouns definition; uncountable nouns are those which can not be counted. So, can you count the objects in the picture? Must you use a measure unit? If the answer to the first question is Yes and No for the second question, you should understand we are talking about a countable noun.

It is not fair and it is not the same case if you compare three breads whit three pieces of plastic; of course you can count the plastic but can you do it without the word "piece"? If I tell you: Imagine a bag with three breads in it, It’s very likely that you imagine three different breads inside the bag (it does not matter if they are the same or different type) but the same does not happen when I use a pure uncountable noun like plastic or water, try it again, imagine I have three plastics/waters/etc inside my bag, immediately comes to our minds nothing but a doubt.

So I would say that bread is countable in some cases, this is one of them; not because you can use the plural to refer to different types of bread but Ti is in fact completely possible to count the three breads without any other word.

protected by tchrist Aug 2 '16 at 2:03

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