If I understand it correctly, nouns for fruits (and certain types of foodstuffs, such as pizza) are used as mass nouns if thought of as "food substance", rather than "portions". So is it correct that I say "I like apple" instead of "I like apples"? Is such reasoning as "I like apple as food, especially in cut pieces", just like "I like soup, pork, etc." (instead of "I like apples as items served as food, especially as whole fruits") valid, or at the very least, applicable in any ways?

I know there's a similar question on ell, but the given answer is not satisfying to me. It flat out denies such a phrase as "I like apple" as grammatically incorrect. But is it though? If it is, when exactly do we use the mass nouns instead of the count nouns? Does the same principle go with "chicken" (the meat) and "chickens" the animal?

Edit: "Dog" is NOT a mass noun and the other question is completely irrelevant. This is absurd. My question concerns the use of mass nouns and count nouns for foods.

  • Yes, non-countable I like apple is perfectly idiomatic if speaking of apple as food e.g. "I prefer apple to rhubarb (in a pie)". However, I like apples is equally heard, but it does suggest the eating of apples as whole objects. – WS2 Dec 30 '16 at 10:03
  • @Rathony Dude, could "dog" ever be a mass noun? – Vun-Hugh Vaw Dec 30 '16 at 12:11
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    Also Cambridge too dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/apple – Vun-Hugh Vaw Dec 30 '16 at 12:39
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    There are a considerable number of people who treat canines as food and for whom I like dog would be similar to I like apple. – Færd Dec 30 '16 at 12:49
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    @Rathony '"I like dog" vs "I like dogs"' is a question about grammaticality (one is the correct 'generic' and one is not sounds like a foreignism ('dog' is usually not considered a comestible in English speaking culture)). Whereas 'apple' vs 'apples' both are grammatical about mostly the same thing with a slight semantic difference. I expect that Mari-lou had an answer about this. – Mitch Dec 30 '16 at 20:49

Yes, you can say “I like apple” if you are talking about the fruit pulp, its texture or its taste; i.e. when it is uncountable. The same is true for any fruit,

  • The median proportions of food types selected are shown in Figure 1 where it can be seen that both species [rats] tended to prefer banana and avocado to the other foods offered. (source)

  • Infants can be fed puréed apple after five months of age.

And when we talk about dishes, in this case dessert, the singular is used.

  • ‘Twin Peaks’ the groundbreaking drama from David Lynch starring Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, the detective with a predilection for cherry pie, and a nose for mystery,... (source)

But normally when we use the word apple, we think of it as something that is countable, that we can pick up and bite into. We are talking about apples in general, not about a single apple. Which is why the phrase I like apples will always be far more common than I like apple.

  • One context in which I can imagine this sort of usage: "What's your favorite type of pie?" "I like apple." – Foobie Bletch Jul 12 '19 at 3:34

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