One of the first “rules” that English students learn is that uncountable nouns can’t be used in the plural form.
As you continue studying English, you start seeing foods and fruits, and you wonder, “is the rule wrong?”
There are some nouns that are both countable and uncountable nouns. In this English grammar lesson, you will learn when you should use food and fruit, and when it’s OK to use foods and fruits.
What are countable and uncountable nouns?
In English, there are countable nouns (also known as count nouns) and uncountable nouns (also known as non-count nouns).
Countable nouns are things that you can count:
1 plant, 2 plants, 2 plants
1 tooth, 2 teeth, 3 teeth
Uncountable nouns are things that you cannot count, or nouns that represent a group:
Uncountable nouns have NO plural form. You can’t make these uncountable nouns plural.
Food vs foods
Food is what people and animals eat. That’s easy to remember! Food is an uncountable noun. You can’t count one food or two foods. Use food as an uncountable noun when you are talking about food in general.
People need to eat food to survive.
I can’t eat all this food!
However, you can also talk about specific kinds of food, and this is where you can sometimes use foods.
Chinese food and Italian food are examples of foreign foods.
The doctor said you need to eat more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.
I have intolerances to a lot of foods. I can’t eat wheat, dairy, soy, almonds and a lot of other things!
I’m having frozen food for dinner tonight. I looked in the freezer and I found all kinds of frozen foods, so I took one and put in the microwave.
If you are not sure if you should use food or foods, use food.
What is your favorite food?
Many students ask if they can use foods in the sentence “My favorite foods are … “ It is grammatically correct to say “My favorite foods are …” but it is not a natural sentence. It sounds weird to me to say “My favorite foods are …” It is more natural to say “I like pizza, nachos & hamburgers!” or “I love Italian food!”
Fruit vs fruits
Fruit is a type of food that grows on a plant, bush, or tree. Usually fruit is an uncountable noun. You can count fruit by saying 1 piece of fruit, 2 pieces of fruit, or a bowl of fruit. Use fruit when you are talking about the entire group in general.
I need to eat more fruit.
I had a sandwich for lunch and then fruit for dessert.
Use fruits when you are talking about many different kinds of fruit:
You can find bananas, grapes and other fruits in the produce section.
Make sure to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
We grow different kinds of fruits on our farm: apples, pears, blueberries, cherries, and peaches.
If you are not sure if you should use fruit or fruits, use fruit.
Fruits and vegetables or fruit and vegetables?
Both are fine. You will find both in the dictionary.
Macmillan online dictionary: “Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary: “The doctor said I should eat more fruits and vegetables.”
What is your favorite fruit?
Again, this question is not something a native speaker would say. It is more common to say “Do you like fruit?” or “What kind of fruit do you like?”