There seems to be some confusion around the word 'food' and its plural form. The word 'food' is one of those nouns that is singular as well as plural, so you don't put an s on the end to make it plural. The proliferation of the word, foods, has come about because of the spread of American English through the internet and other media. The Americans are fond of putting an s on many words that don't need one in the plural form.

Many years ago, when I went over to the States for work, I was slightly bemused by the Americans' habit of adding an s to nouns that were already plural as well as singular. In the UK, Australia and other English-speaking countries that I visited at the time (40 to 50 years ago), words like food were never spelled with an s on the end to make them plural.

We should watch out for the insidious invasion of American English which I notice is slowly taking hold everywhere. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves using weird forms of words like drug for the past tense form of drag as the Americans do.

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    I’m voting to close this question because it looks like a peeve. Just because words like food, sugar, bread, water,... can be seen as "plural" uncountable nouns doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't expliicitly pluralise them with an s in appropriate contexts. Commented Jul 10 at 1:11
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    I’m voting to close this question because there is no question asked. Commented Jul 10 at 1:37
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    So you prefer to say These food are tasty, do you now? I thoroughly disbelieve. Thus food itself is always singular and can never be plural without inflection. Q.E.D.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 10 at 1:37
  • I think I'd prefer to say, 'this food is tasty.' That would be in reference to one or a number of dishes.
    – user519715
    Commented Jul 11 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


The claim that foods was never used in the UK is false. The Hansard Corpus, detailing speech in British parliament, has 9182 hits dating back to the 19th century. A sample:

Our imports of foods of various kinds during the year 1878 amounted to £ 100,000,000 (Mr Bernhard Samuelson, House of Commons, 1879)

I should not object if you put into the Bill a penalty of imprisonment for repeated offences, because there are 1473 some people who, for the sake of gain, will continue to deceive their customers and sell noxious foods as pure products, and I think no punishment too great for that class (Mr William Foster, House of Commons, 1899)

The most staggering figure to me is the one relating to applications for free welfare foods for children under the age of 5 (Mr Nicholas Scott, House of Commons, 1967)

We must translate it into action: In 1987 " Look After Your Heart " produced a guide to healthy eating: It recommended the need to cut down on fat, sugar and salt and to eat more fibre-rich foods and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, to go easy on alcohol; a weak way of putting it; and to get plenty of variety in food (Mr Simon Coombs, House of Commons, 1990)

British English ngram of foods vs food Google ngram of British English foods vs food

American English ngram of foods vs food

Google ngram of American English foods vs food

Though there are surely many Americanisms being adopted in other varieties of English, it seems foods is not one of them.

  • I must say that I am impressed with the research you have done here to produce the very compelling evidence that the word foods was not an Americanism adopted elsewhere. Perhaps, like some other words and turns of phrase that have appeared on the shores of other English-speaking nations, foods was an export from England, that is to say it was taken by migrants to America where it proliferated, and now it is reappearing in the very country that spawned it, along with its former colonies.
    – user519715
    Commented Jul 11 at 23:08

food (n.)

An item of food; a particular kind of food. Chiefly in plural.

1923 If she had knocked off starchy foods and done Swedish exercises for a bit, she might have been quite tolerable.
P. G. Wodehouse, Inimitable Jeeves xi. 123
[OED online]

Earliest citation of the plural in the OED is from 1393, which gets us Americans off the hook.

  • Well, I suppose even P.G. Wodehouse was given to errors in the English language. Would we say for instance, "they had eaten their foods and slept?"
    – user519715
    Commented Jul 11 at 23:15
  • Back in 1393 the English language hadn't been standardized, so all kinds of language anomalies abounded.
    – user519715
    Commented Jul 11 at 23:17

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