1

Example:

Pico de gallo:

onion, tomato, and cilantro

or

onions, tomatoes, and cilantro

when one or less onion and one or less tomato has been chopped for use in the recipe.

4
  • 1
    What research did you do before asking here? Did you try, for instance, looking up Pico de Gallo recipes anywhere and see how they list their ingredients?
    – Jim
    Oct 4 '14 at 21:14
  • 1
    'Onion' is used both as a count and a mass noun. 'Three chopped onions' but 'I hate chopped onion before it's cooked'. Here, either 'half a chopped onion' or 'the chopped onion' may be used. Oct 4 '14 at 21:16
  • related American 'cup' measurement — for cheese
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 4 '14 at 23:50
  • I don't trust a source whose expertise lies outside English language and usage to determine anything about just that--English language and usage--especially a source as far away from that expertise as most recipe sites are sure to be : P Oct 5 '14 at 1:23
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That isn't an easy question to answer without more context. Either is fine in the very contextually free manner you have specified. But it very much depends on the nature of the sentence. For example:

Add half a chopped onion and stir.

Is correct, since you are talking about one onion which has been chopped, and then adding half of the result.

Add a half onion, chopped, and stir.

Is also correct, since you are adding one of the thing, the thing being a half onion.

Add 0.5 onions, chopped, and stir.

Here we are using a numeric unit of a mass quantity -- onion -- and so we need a plural, since 0.5 is not "one". However, that is a kind of odd thing to say.

Add 2 pounds of chopped onions and stir.

This is fine just fine, however, this:

Add 2 pounds of chopped onion and stir.

Is also fine. In the first case you are using onions as discrete things, and so since you chopped a bunch of them to get to 2 pounds, you need a plural. However, in the second case you are using onion as a mass quantity, that is to say, you are not talking about individual onions, but onion material, then you can use a singular.

Which is a long roundabout way of saying "it depends."

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  • I would rather see a half-onion hyphenated, as with any half-compound. But you could also use half an onion: many of us do.
    – tchrist
    Oct 4 '14 at 22:34
  • Is it true that anything outside of, even if less than, "one" is plural? Interesting. Oct 5 '14 at 1:25
  • Anyway, you answered my question well, especially as it was summed up in your second-to-last paragraph. Thank you very much for your prompt, thoughtful, and clear answer. Oct 5 '14 at 1:26

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