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The sentences seems a bit wrong but when you replace cat with something else it sounds right:

I like A (Do you like A or B?).
I like apples (Do you like apples or oranges?).

but...

I like cat. (Do you like cat or dog?)

What rule applies to these sentences?

marked as duplicate by anongoodnurse, FumbleFingers, user66974, RegDwigнt Jul 20 '14 at 11:28

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  • Why did you use plural "apples" but singular "cat"? "I like cats" sounds just fine to me. – coneslayer Jul 20 '14 at 0:53
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    You're comparing cat to apples. It sounds strange because you didn't pluralize it, that's all. singular: I like cat = I like chicken. Plural: I like cats = I like apples/dogs/chickens/books/whatever(s). Have you visited our sister site, ELL? It is geared towards learners and a good place to ask basic questions such as this. – anongoodnurse Jul 20 '14 at 1:48
  • Perhaps in the asker's native language, it's possible to indicate your preference of certain things with a singular noun. I could see this happening—specifically for animals or pets, or when presented with two options—in some language. – user85526 Jul 20 '14 at 7:37
  • Fwiw, the question answers itself since 'Do you like cat or dog?' isn't different from the 'Do you like A or B?' that OP already claimed to understand. A 2nd problem is that far fewer English speakers would ask whether people liked eating cat or dog than would ask if they liked cats or dogs as pets. The 3rd is that this correct form of the question is still covered by the 'Do you like apples or oranges?' format... so it's still unclear what OP's real question is. – lly Jun 15 '18 at 19:38
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“I like (noun)” works fine if and only if the noun is either mass or plural. “I like cat” is entirely grammatical if and only if cat, not being plural, is read as a mass noun, that is, as referring to a substance, viz. the muscle tissue of one or more members of the family felidae, regarded, treated, cooked, and eaten as meat. If you mean you like a particular living cat, you need a definite or indefinite article before cat.

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This is a matter of whether the noun is countable or uncountable, and how the meaning changes in each case.

“Apple” and “cat” are generally countable nouns.

If you say “I like cat”, it becomes treated like an uncountable noun.

Consider the following.

Countable Noun

I like chickens.

They are such cute and funny little critters.

Uncountable Noun

I like chicken.

Chicken is so tasty. And chicken tastes, like, well, chicken.

So, when you say “I like cat”, and treat “cat” as an uncountable noun, it sounds like you are saying that you like to eat the flesh of cats.

  • Tastes like chicken ? – mgb Jul 20 '14 at 0:45
  • As long as it's served on Melmac. – Frank Jul 20 '14 at 6:54
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In English, we place an article (a, an, or the) before a singular noun, and plural nouns would have no article. This, of course, only applies when dealing with countable nouns. Uncountable nouns are a different matter entirely, but are relatively easier to deal with, because they need no article in any situation.

Countability does depend on the meaning, but usually it's quite easy to distinguish between the countable and uncountable definition of the noun in use.

TL;DR: Articles before singular countable nouns, no article before uncountable nouns and plural countable nouns.

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