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"Bread and butter" can be plural and singular and it denpends on the context but how about some combinations like countable and uncountable words? For example, "(a) water and an (the) apple(s)" ?

Water and apples are (is) served.

If we take them as one thing, it can be singular? or it's just plural whatever the context would be ?

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  • (Ignoring the fact that you can order “a water”?…) Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 1:26
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2 Answers 2

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It's not that complicated in the abstract.

  1. Uncountable nouns are treated as singular ("some flour goes into the pie").
  2. Countable nouns can be plural ("three apples go into the pie").
  3. If you have a combination of countable and uncountable, congratulations, you have a compound subject, and ergo a plural ("three apples and some flour go into the pie").

Your first example, "bread and butter," is a compound noun. Although the word "and" is included, it's treated as one thing ("gin and tonic is the best drink" "'Twist and Shout' is an over-rated song"). When you use them together you mean a different thing than when you use them separately. "Gin and tonic are both liquids"—that sentence is no longer talking about the same thing as "gin and tonic." So it's an equivocation to say that "bread and butter" can be either singular or plural. The same words can be used in a singular compound noun, or as two unrelated nouns on their own.

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If you have separate countable and/or uncountable nouns they take a singular verb if they are intended as a combination or are considered together as some kind of unit, be it food, things, actions, etc. Of course they take the usual plural when they are separate things. The nature of the nouns (countable or uncountable) really doesn't come into play.


Canned peas and carrots is the product which has been properly prepared from clean, sound, succulent garden peas and clean, sound carrots. The peas and carrots are packed in a suitable packing medium with or without the addition of salt, sugar, or other ingredient(s) permissible under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic act;... Federal Register, Vol. 35 p. 2788

Peas and carrots is (singular) one canned product, but to make the product, the ingredients (peas and carrots) are (plural) first packed in a medium.

The lox, eggs, and onions is good if you tell them to make sure the onions are well-cooked. Transcript from The Reliable Source, Aug. 23, 2002
[uncountable + countable + countable]

... to contradict Marcella Hazan, who states firmly in her equally estimable Classic Italian Cook Book, "Rice and peas is not a risotto with peas. It is a soup." John Thorne; Simple Cooking

Rice and beans is a classic combination. Each Latino group has a favorite bean for it and some even have distinctive whimsical names. Zilkia Janer; Latino Food Culture

Fox and hounds is a race. We start off at opposite corners of the house. David Mitchell; Slade House

Father – who believed that bricks and mortar was a solid base for financial security – had already invested in holiday flats in Spain at Bela Medina and Marbella when an opportunity was offered for ... Graham Wren; A Rugy and a Rose Came to Derby

Catch and release works to maintain healthy populations of fish and there must be enough fish in any given area to maintain or grow the population. "Catch and Release vs. Catch and Keep Fishing"

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