cake -- uncountable noun?

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Llibertat, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. Llibertat Member

    Spain, Spanish and Catalan
    I would like to know whether cake is considered countable or uncountable.
    Do you eat a cake, or a piece of cake?

  2. srsh Senior Member

    Monterrey, México
    Mexico, Español
    it is countable
  3. swift_precision Senior Member

    Yep coincido con srsh. If you eat a cake that would mean that you are eating the whole thing. But if you eat a piece of the cake that means that you are eating a part of it. You can eat 2 pieces of cake, 3 pieces of cake, 4 pieces of cake. etc. hasta ad infinitum...o hasta que te mueres..jeje

    ¿Me sigues llibertat?
  4. Llibertat Member

    Spain, Spanish and Catalan
    I have found somewhere else that cake can work as both countable and uncountable, depending on what the speaker is referring to. Cake is uncountable when is is considered as the mass or dough.
    Thanks for your help.

  5. dsargent New Member

    Now you have the complete picture. The word is both countable and uncountable. For example:

    • Last night, I baked two cakes. (+count)
    • We often eat cake after supper. (-count)
    I'm not completely sure what you mean when you say "considered as the mass or dough," but your are, nonetheless, correct in saying that, depending on the use, this word can fall into either category.


  6. Llibertat Member

    Spain, Spanish and Catalan
    When a cake is made from scratch, the ingredients are mixed to obtain what I would call a mass or a dough. Probably there is a specific word to define this better, but I don't know it. :).

  7. gisele73

    gisele73 Senior Member

    Spanish - Peru
    Hola, what you called "dough" in the case of a cake is called "batter", if I'm not mistaken.

  8. nikvin Senior Member

    UK/France English/French/Spanish
    batter is the mix one would put on fish, vegetables or whatever before deep frying, or the mix made to make pancakes. Cake mix is .......... cake mix, although with some recipes it may be made into a dough ( fairly thick solid mass) before liquid is added. Dough is also the name for the mixture of ingredients, for bread
  9. La_Ida New Member

    Español Mexico
    countable. you can say 2 cakes, three cakes, etc. you can eat a WHOLE cake, sound s weird, but you can. If you mean a portion, then you say a piece. Is it ok to say a slice of cake? :S
  10. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    Cake batter is correct. A cake mix comes from a box, pre-made. If you make a cake from scratch, it is cake batter.

    Better butter makes better batter! :D

    Cake is both countable and non.

    You eat cake.
    You eat a slice of cake.
    You eat 3 pieces of cake (or slices).
    We have cake and icecream at birthday parties.

  11. nikvin Senior Member

    UK/France English/French/Spanish
    I do believe, batter for a cke mix is an american English term, not British English, batter is for pancakes ( masa) and for frying ( para rebozar)
  12. British English for cake mix is 'cake mixture'.
  13. La_Ida New Member

    Español Mexico
    gracias Jacinta ;)
  14. catalinaaaa87

    catalinaaaa87 Senior Member

    Argentina - español
    I think cake is both, countable and uncountable. If you refer to the whole cake it's countable (one cake, two cakes, ten cakes). Then if you just want to refer to a part of it, it's uncountable, because the people who are going to eat it have to share the whole cake. So you say: a piece/portion of cake, two pieces/portions of cake, etc.
  15. catalinaaaa87

    catalinaaaa87 Senior Member

    Argentina - español
    I just want to make it clear that when I say that cake can be uncountable, the main example is: I eat cake, then by adding a piece/portion of we "transform" cake into a countable noun.
  16. MrHarry Member

    UK, English
    Surely any item of food is uncountable under the cake examples given in this thread?

    Last night, I made two cakes/sausages/pies...

    We often eat cake/sausage/pie after dinner...
  17. bumblecat Senior Member

    San Francisco baby!
    Chilean Spanish/ American English
    UNCOUNTABLE: Could I have some cake please?

    How much would you like?

    COUNTABLE: Just one piece, thanks, and make it small, I'm on a diet...
    Or: Two pieces, for me and my husband, thanks.
  18. cubaMania Senior Member

    Hmmmm. You are making me think, MrHarry. How about "nuts"? or "crackers"? You would not say "We often eat nut/cracker?" or "May I have some nut?"
  19. cubaMania Senior Member

    Ah, no, there is a fundamental mistake being made here. Your uncountable example is fine. But in "two pieces of cake" it is the pieces that are countable, not the cake. The example to illustrate that cake can also be countable must use two cakes, not two pieces of cake.

    By way of additional illustration: flour in its normal use is an uncountable noun. But you may ask for two XX of flour (cups, tablespoons, handfuls, etc.) That does not change flour in that instance to countable. It is not "give me two flours".
  20. bumblecat Senior Member

    San Francisco baby!
    Chilean Spanish/ American English
    You're absolutely right, cubaMania, that second one was a horrible example. But you could go to a store and ask for two chocolate cakes for your twins' b-days. And that would make cake both countable and uncountable.

    In the case of nuts or crackers, you would always use the words in plural, unless you're talking about just one:

    My mom makes sweets and pastries, try this one it's a chocolate covered nut.
    You can also try these bombons, their filled with nuts.

    Can I have a cracker with tuna?
    I'm really hungry, but all I have to eat are crackers. Do you want some too or should we go to the store and get chocolate?

    That's the best I can do, now I gotta go get chocolate...
  21. cubaMania Senior Member

    Yes, bumblecat, no question about it: cake can be either countable and uncountable. You can buy one, two or three cakes, etc., or you can have some cake.
  22. GiggLiden

    GiggLiden Senior Member

    So far we have overlooked THE most famous quotation of all, by Marie Antionette !!

    When her courtiers pointed out that the poor people had nothing to eat, not even bread, she was believed to have said ....

    "Let them eat cake!!!"
  23. catalinaaaa87

    catalinaaaa87 Senior Member

    Argentina - español
    uncountable: I ate cake

    countable: I ate two cakes (I really ate 2 whole cakes although it's a lot, it can happen!)
    I ate a piece of cake/ 3 pieces of cake (cake is uncountable but "a piece of" transforms it in countable)
  24. Starkeclipse Member

    Pennsylvania, USA
    USA, English
    "cake" cuando refieres al concepto abstracto de un casi tipo de pan no es contable.

    Pero, cuando refieres a una porcion especifica, si es un(os) "cake" entero(s) o una(s) pieza(s) de este "cake", es contable.

    Es sencillo, de verdad.
  25. catalinaaaa87

    catalinaaaa87 Senior Member

    Argentina - español
    es exactamente como lo explica "starkeclipse", coincido en que tendriamos que dejar de dar vueltas sobre el asunto, porque lo único que hacemos es complicarnos más!

    It's exactly as "starkeclipse" explains it. I agree we shoul stop discussing it because the only thing we're doing is to complicate it more than what it really is!
  26. cubaMania Senior Member

    In fact, no. Here is the example from in their LearnEnglishCentral:
    This, of course, is exactly analogous to the use of "cake" as an uncountable noun in "two pieces of cake".
    You are not counting cakes, you are counting pieces. Here "cake" is singular and uncountable (i.e. used in its uncountable sense).
    You can count breaths but not air (take two breaths of air, please) because air is uncountable, hence it is expressed in singular with no 's'.
    You can count grains but you cannot count sand.
    You can count blocks but you cannot count ice.
    and so on...
    Putting a "measurement and the word of" in front of an uncountable noun does not convert it to countable.

    If that is not enough documentation, here it is from's ESL Guide to Countable and Uncountable Nouns:
    This is how it is in English.
  27. haoyuep New Member

    Washington, DC USA
    US English
    "Crackers" and "nuts" can be used for the uncountable forms. "All through the party season we ate only crackers, nuts, sausage, cake, and cheese."

    Cheese can be countable, but it's relatively uncommon, because "a cheese" is the whole wheel of cheese, and most people don't deal in such quantities. It's like a cake or a sausage, the unit as it is manufactured is the countable form.

    For cake, cheese, and sausage we don't need to pluralize to use them uncountably. It's idiomatic which things require pluralization to make them uncountable.
  28. Plin New Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    Suppose you are at a party and there are lots of cakes of different types. If you want to say that you have eaten a little of cake A and a little of cake B, is it OK to say "I have eaten two cakes" ?

    I mean, you don't want to say that you have eaten two whole cakes, you have just tried a piece of each one.
  29. errefg

    errefg Senior Member

    Connecticut, USA
    Spanish - Spain
    "Cake" is a countable noun, but if you want to eat part of the cake, and not the whole thing, you need to quantify it: "a piece of cake."

    She baked three cakes.
    She ate three pieces of cake.
  30. Plin New Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    But it would be ambiguous that way, maybe she ate three pieces of the same cake.
  31. elbaciyelmo

    elbaciyelmo Member

    Oregon, USA
    English - U.S.
    She tried two cakes. She tasted two cakes.
  32. Plin New Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    Thanks, elbaciyelmo! The answer to my question was so simple... it's implicit in the act of tasting a cake to try only a piece.

    Shame on me :(
  33. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    No not exactly.

    Cake has countable and uncountable uses. It's not strictly either.
    It's one of those nouns that goes both way depending on context.

    She baked some (2, 100, a few, several) cakes. countable
    We ate some (a little, a bunch, tons, loads and loads of) cake. uncountable.

    Hmm yes, that worked out well for her now didn't it :rolleyes:
  34. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    Dough is a stiff mixture made from a starch, liquid, and may include other ingredients, that can be shaped, as in cookie dough, or that contains yeast and must be kneaded to allow it to rise as in bread dough..

    Batter contains more liquid and cannot be shaped and usually can be poured, as cake or pancake batter.
  35. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    If a worked in a bakery, and I were the chef, and I have sold three cakes, I would say: I sold three cakes. Am I right? And the word "cake" would take its plural form, wouldn't it?
  36. SevenDays Senior Member

    Yes, that's the idea.
  37. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    Yes, but when a customer takes the cake home, each child would ask for a slice of cake, not a cake, unless the cake was baked in individual servings, like a doughnut. So cake is definitely countable, until it comes time to eat it. Then it depends on the size of the cake - i.e., is it meant to be shared or is it baked in individual servings.
  38. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Cake es como cheese, generalmente noncount, pero puede decirse "two cakes" en ciertos contextos específicos.

    Si digo "dos quesos", ¿en qué se pensaría?
  39. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    i have another question related to uncountable nouns...If I had to say to a customer that there is mayonnaise on the table, what should I say?

    THE mayonnaise is on the table.
    Mayonnaise is on the table.

    And if the bottle of mayonnaise was on the shelf??

    THE mayonnaise is on that shelf, it is next to THE ketchup.
    Mayonnaise is on that shelf, it is next to ketchup.

    Uncountable nouns do not take the definite article THE.
  40. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    This last statement is false. The definite article is compatible with both countable and uncountable common nouns.

    All of these mayonnaise and ketchup sentences are meaningful, but "mayonnaise" and "ketchup" with no determiner do not refer to particular bottles of the condiments.

    "Mayonnaise is on that shelf", for example, could mean that mayonnaise has been spilled on that shelf or that that shelf is where we keep any bottles of mayonnaise we might have.
  41. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    thanks for the correction...but help me checking the following case:

    Client: Where is the mayonnaise? Where is the ketchup?
    Waiter: The mayonnaise in on the table. The ketchup is on the counter.

    Did I use the article THE correctly?
  42. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
  43. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    Thanks. I am going to use your corrections in my class..Thanks :thumbsup:
  44. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    If I were a waiter, would it be correct to say:

    Where is the ketchup? It is on that table next to the mayonnaise?
    Where is the mustard? It is next to the ketchup?
  45. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    The following sentence appeared on a web page:

    Massage the mayonnaise into your scalp and then work it through your hair to ..

    If I had to grade above sentence, I would cross out the word "the".
    Am I right?
  46. SevenDays Senior Member

    Yes, that's fine; the mayonnaise, the ketchup, the mustard ... they are all "readily identifiable" (for example, they can be seen) and thus take the definite article

    On that webpage (or at least the web page that I saw), "mayonnaise" has already been mentioned, so the noun is now identifiable and thus takes the definite article.

  47. elicosafi

    elicosafi Member

    thanks..Gracias :)
    los sustantivos incontables me están dando dolor de cabeza.
  48. Gabriel

    Gabriel Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Argentina / Español
    En realidad es una de las cosas que más se parece al español:

    - Oye, alcánzame los aderezos.
    - Bueno, pero no le pongas mucho.

    Madre al mozo: - Quiero una coca cola por favor.
    Hijo a la madre: - Mamá, ¿me sirves un poco de coca cola por favor?

    - Me compre una torta así de grande, y comí tanta torta que me empaché.

    - ¿Que estás cocinando?
    - Cazuela de pollo.
    - ¿Tenías pollo?
    - Sí, ayer compré dos pollos.

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