For instance, are the following sentences grammatical, and do they mean the same thing or have different meanings?

  1. Cheese is an example of protien-rich food.
  2. Cheese is an example of a protein-rich food.
  3. Cheese is an example of protein-rich foods.
  • It’s the cheese that does it. Grapes are an example of a protein-poor food. – Xanne Jun 4 '20 at 21:04
  • 2
    An example is singular. But what follows of can be anything at all. This is an example of [whatever you want to say]. (1) This is an example of poetry. (2) This is an example of a boring movie. (3) This is an example of common mistakes that people make. (4) This is an example of blue men on the moon learning how to walk without gravity and wishing they didn't have to be there. In short, an example of has no real effect on anything that follows it. You can use either food or foods. Probably the singular is more common, but the plural is not wrong. – Jason Bassford Jun 4 '20 at 23:38
  • @JasonBassford Thank you so much for your elaborate answer and great examples. – RoseDavie Jun 14 '20 at 20:43

Problem: cheese is a mass noun, so is kind of really neither singular nor plural. Mass nouns take singular verbs, so we'll pretend like it's singular!

Next problem: "an example" is singular, and so we'd expect the thing that is the exemplar to also be singular. Ria is an example of a girl. check! Ria are examples of a girl. wrong!

Sentence one and two are grammatical, but with slightly different nuances. 1. indicates a sort of "ex plurality": "protein rich food" itself means the sum of all foodstuffs that are rich in protein. 2. indicates a sort of "ex singularity": "a protein rich food" is more specific than "protein rich food". It's one out of many. If your only point is to say that cheese has protein, then either choice is valid. If your point is to say that cheese has protein comparable to all other protein rich foods, then pick 1. If your point is to say that cheese has protein comparable to specific protein rich foods, such as dairy, then pick 2.

Sentence 3. is ungrammatical because of the number mismatch. In this case, you've got is in its use as copula along with a predicate, cheese, and the predicative expression. The number, singular or plural, ought to be the same on both sides of the equation.

You could say Cheeses are examples of protein rich foods. Here, cheeses is a plural count noun meaning "different kinds of cheese".

  • 1
    Thank you so much for explaining why the sentences are grammatical or ungrammatical and for explaining which question goes with which meaning better. – RoseDavie Jun 14 '20 at 20:53
  • CED disagrees, giving the example sentence 'Could you give me an example of the improvements you have mentioned?' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '20 at 12:51

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