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I feel the following sentence does not sound usual:

I like meat. Can I eat it tonight?

I think it is more common to say:

I like meat. Can I eat some tonight?

Is my understanding correct? If so, why? How does the first sentence sound to native English speakers? Can you explain the difference between the two grammatically? Finally, does

I want to eat meat.

connote that the person wants to eat raw meat?

  • Some is not a pronoun, but it will work. You are omitting the obvious word from the expression Can I eat some meat tonight? That's acceptable. – ScotM Jan 29 '15 at 18:06
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    What seems odd to me, is that I don't hear native speakers talk about meat that way usually. Chicken is meat, beef steak is meat, pork roast is meat, but when it comes to talking about eating meat, we tend to say either "I like steak. Can I have that tonight?" or "I want some chicken", for example. There are idioms for meat where "meat" is used, such as "I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of girl!" or "I'm throwing some meat on the grill, want some?" (In that last case, there would likely be a mixed assortment of meat, making use of "meat" acceptable there, IMO) – Kristina Lopez Jan 29 '15 at 19:42
  • @KristinaLopez In some contexts, you would be fine, though. “Gah, all this rabbit food … I need meat, dammit!” is perfectly fine without specifying—probably more natural than specifying would be, in fact. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 31 '15 at 14:21
  • This doesn't sound wrong just because meat is an uncountable noun. The sentences "I like guinea pigs. Can I have them for pets." sounds wrong, too. You need to use some because you are transitioning from talking about guinea pigs in general, to talking about a few specific guinea pigs. – Peter Shor Jan 31 '15 at 14:30
  • Exactly, @JanusBahsJacquet, there are some specific examples where "meat" fits, but they seem more idiomatic than specific. – Kristina Lopez Jan 31 '15 at 14:30
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That's because "meat", just like wine, coffee, flour, etc, is an uncountable noun.

  • The meat is in the fridge. Can you get it for me (all of it)?
  • There is meat and potatoes. Would you like some (some of it)?

When you use "some", you specify you want just some part of it.

see these examples:

  • There is tea and milk. Would you like some?
  • There is a glass of milk. I think I'm drinking it.

If you refer to part of the whole, use "some".

  • It's not just because "meat" is an uncountable noun. "I like Golden Retrievers. Can I get them?" sounds wrong, too (unless some specific Golden Retrievers are already under discussion). – Peter Shor Jan 31 '15 at 14:30
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When you say "I like meat" you are speaking about meat in general, that is, all possible kinds of meat. This is, as noted, a non-count noun. When you speak of eating "it" tonight, you are not referring to meat in general, so the pronoun is not appropriate, you are not referring back to "meat " in the sense you used it. You're really talking about a piece of meat.

So, as others pointed out, "some [meat]" or "some pork chops", or "a steak" are more appropriate. Or "a hunk of cow" (casual, almost joking) Or "a piece of meat", if you really aren't craving any particular kind.

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I doubt many people would misunderstand you if you were to say the "Can I eat it tonight?" form, but it sounds less natural because meat is being discussed in the abstract. If you were talking concretely about a piece of meat, then "it" would be fine, for instance

That is a nice piece of meat. Can I eat it tonight?

There is a specific object being referred to, so the pronoun "it" is appropriate. The phrase

I like meat. Can I eat it tonight?

would seem to imply that you somehow plan to eat all meat, rather than simply a piece of the greater, abstract concept of meat.

  • So, do you think there are some native English speakers who make the first example comment when asked, "What would you like for dinner?" – Kaimei Nishimoto Jan 31 '15 at 13:52
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Your understanding is correct. I don't know why it is that "it" sounds odd in your example. I think it would be okay if the context was a discussion about the prohibition on eating meat at certain times, and then, you could also use "that". "It" would also be okay if, instead of meat, you were talking about a single available item which you would be consuming in its entirety.

About raw meat, no, I see no such connotation.

  • Your explanation gave me an idea about how native speakers perceive. And thanks for addressing all of my questions. – Kaimei Nishimoto Jan 31 '15 at 13:48

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