I have learned that liquids are uncountable, except for measurements such as "three cups of water."

So, does "three lattes" in this context refer to three cups of latte?

  • Thanks for editing Alenanno.A question, why using refer instead of refers ? Does it means "Three lattes" is phural ? Jun 25, 2011 at 16:23
  • 3
    When you ask a question with the form "Does [subject] [verb] [additional info]?" the verb goes to the infinite form, because "DOES" is already playing that role... :)
    – Alenanno
    Jun 25, 2011 at 16:26
  • So "Does" is the real subject of the verb "refer", Thank you :D Jun 25, 2011 at 16:32
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    No, it's not the subject... For example "Does the Earth rotate?": "the Earth" is the subject, "rotate" is the verb, and "does" is needed to form the question, I don't remember its role name at the moment
    – Alenanno
    Jun 25, 2011 at 16:34
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    Yeah. That's the main rule, I'd say...
    – Alenanno
    Jun 25, 2011 at 16:38

4 Answers 4


This is a specific usage that concerns items on a menu. It is perfectly acceptable to say "three lattes" or "one water" because you are referring to a specific item like a bottle, rather than a substance.

  • So in this case we can say "two waters" or "three waters" as well ? Jun 25, 2011 at 16:12
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    Yes. It is understood that "waters" means "bottles of water."
    – jackgill
    Jun 25, 2011 at 16:15
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    Or glasses of water; basically "servings of water".
    – Kosmonaut
    Jun 25, 2011 at 16:22
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    The prescriptivist in me would like to argue for "3 cafes latte," but I'm laughing too hard.
    – The Raven
    Jun 25, 2011 at 17:55
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    @The Raven: the Italian in me would argue the same...
    – nico
    Jun 26, 2011 at 8:36

In Australia, a few years ago, Kylie Minogue (aka 'The Singing Budgie') featured in a TV commercial for Coca Cola.

In the commercial, she ordered Two Coke, and this caused some public debate.

The answer came from the Coca Cola company itself, which I can summarise by saying Coke is a trademark and correct usage of the mark requires it to be both singular and plural — Owners of such valuable marks take these things very seriously.

But I'm not aware that anyone considers the word latte a trademark, so it should be safe to treat it as countable as jackgill described.

  • 4
    Even with Coke, the Cola-Cola company doesn't get to decide what happens to the word in the English language. They have every right to try, but what happens happens. People ask for "cokes" all day long in every English speaking restaurant that serves the product.
    – Kosmonaut
    Jun 26, 2011 at 1:15
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    Which is probably why there was a public outcry: firstly because Kylie was heard to say something ungrammatical and secondly because the Coca Cola company took it so seriously. But, then, she was using the word in a trademark context -- namely, advertising.
    – pavium
    Jun 26, 2011 at 7:21

As a native American English speaker, I find "Three lattes for takeout. Is that all?" to be entirely grammatical and natural. Saying that all liquids are uncountable is an oversimplification of the actual rules for determining countability.

  • 2
    That's because you're using lattes as short form of cups of latte. Liquids are still uncountable (they have no proper shape by definition!), you're counting the containers and/or the servings.
    – nico
    Jun 26, 2011 at 8:35

As a longtime restaurant worker I consider myself an expert on beverages. Coffee is brewed in quantity. We make a pot of coffee and then pour it out into cups to serve it, so the coffee is uncountable and the cups are countable. Three coffees is short for three cups of coffee, as others have noted. Latte, on the other hand, is not brewed in quantity, but individually. Each one is a separate product and can be counted. The same goes for cappuccino, espresso and their variants. You can ask for more coffee, but you ask for another latte.

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