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Why do we say 'I like dogs'? Why can't we say 'I like dog' if we are referring to a particular dog? Most people use 'I like dogs'. Which is correct and why?

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    'I like dogs' means 'I like all dogs' or 'I like dogs in general'. If you like a particular dog you would say 'I like this dog'. – ElendilTheTall Jul 4 '14 at 8:27
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    'I like dogs' doesn't refer to a particular dog in English, either. To refer to a particular dog, you need to use 'the dog', 'this dog', 'John's dog', 'that dog in the window', 'the black-and-white dog we saw the other day when we were taking a walk', and so on. And this isn't true just for 'dog' but for countable nouns in general. – Peter Shor Jul 4 '14 at 17:53
  • "I like dog" means you like to eat dog meat. – Hot Licks Jun 15 '18 at 23:55
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"I like X" suggests you like the stuff of X. When it is an animal, the implication is that you like to eat it. Thus, "I like dog" sounds like dog as a food.

"I like Xs" suggests you like things of the X type; thus for animate objects it suggests you enjoy spending time with them, so "I like dogs" suggests you like them as pets.

"I like this X" is entirely context dependent. "I like this chicken" when at a petting zoo would mean you think it is a friendly chicken, but at a meal table would mean you think it is tasty.

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"Dog" is a count noun, and you mean you like dogs in general (i.e., more than one dog), so you'd use the plural form.

If you were talking about a noncount noun such as coffee or luggage or research, you'd say "I like coffee/luggage/research."

Native speakers usually know intuitively which nouns are count nouns. Generally, count nouns are things that are considered to be possible to count, like dogs or chairs or people. Noncount nouns are things that are too abstract or numerous to count, like enjoyment or sand. It's possible to imagine contexts in which noncount nouns become countable (e.g., in a restaurant if you are ordering specific dishes from a menu, you might count them: "3 beefs, 2 turkeys") but your "I like X" is not one of those contexts.

  • I agree in general, but I disagree with your "three beefs, two turkeys" example. To me (native speaker of British English), that would always be "three beef, two turkey", treated as a contraction of "three beef dishes", "three made with beef" or something like that. – David Richerby Aug 25 '15 at 23:39
  • I see what you mean. I myself wouldn't call them contractions because I don't know of any contractions that have > 2 words (doesn't mean they don't exist), because contractions usually sound like the contracted words spoken quickly, and because contractions include at least one sound from each of the contracted words. "Beefs" doesn't include any sounds from "made with" or "dishes" ("beefs" ends with an /s/ sound while dishes ends with a /z/ sound). Still "three made with beef" or whatever is definitely the same meaning as my example of "three beefs." – iBeth01 Aug 27 '15 at 1:18
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"I like dogs" - I like all dogs.

"I like this dog" - I like this specific dog.

"I like dog" - I like 'dog' as a particular object. If you were of the inclination to ever eat a dog's meat, you'd say 'I like dog.'

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It depends what you are referring to!

if you are referring to Dog as an animal you say:

I like dogs. (meaning all dogs/dog varieties).

If you have been talking about a specific Dog (your dog or neighbour's). You might wanna say:

I like that dog.

If you are comparing animal species (talking biology or some zoology stuff). you might wanna say:

I like dogs and you ?

depends on what you are talking about!

  • @DavidRicherby that doesn't mean that you should downvote could have asked for an edit :) You were right though! – sud007 Aug 26 '15 at 5:17
  • @Mari-LouA nicely pointed out. Even I didn't notice that! Thanks for the guide. – sud007 Aug 26 '15 at 5:48
  • Typo: If you are referring to dog as an animal, you say: .... And I think dog breeds sounds more correct than dog varieties – Mari-Lou A Aug 26 '15 at 6:03

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