"a cup of hot tea" or " a hot cup of tea"?

8769

Senior Member
Japanese and Japan
Which is more natutal, #1 or #2 below?
1. a cup of hot tea
2. a hot cup of tea

I think #2 is, but I'm not sure.
 
  • Briseide84

    Member
    Italy Italian
    A hot cup of tea may sound better but it seems that the hot thing is the cup, while tea could be either hot or not.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    In Britain "A [nice] hot cup of tea" is virtually a set phrase, especially when offered for "remedial" purposes: "I'll make you a nice hot cup of tea!"

    Under other circumstances, I don't see anything wrong with "a cup of hot tea", though. I guess it's more descriptive than idiomatic.
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    In my days as a lecturer, I would often pause to get myself "a hot cup of coffee." But then I would get so engrossed in my subject that I would forget to drink it and get left with "a cup of cold coffee."

    Why, one wonders, does hot coffee (or tea) come in a "hot cup," while cold coffee (or tea) requires only a "cup." Perhaps it has to do with Mole's "nice." Cold coffee is a rather unpleasant substance so we need to emphasize the "cold" by putting it directly before the "coffee." How that explains making the "cup" the "hot" thing is not clear to me, but we certainly do.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Perhaps it's because in familiar phrases "cup of tea" becomes "cup-of-tea", hence "cuppa", so that hot must come before cup. However, we rarely talk of cups of cold tea and have no idiom to fall back on (not that "cold cup of tea" is impossible). When we talk about cold cups of tea (there I go!) we more often talk of "your tea/coffee is getting cold" with no reference to the cup.
     

    iangreen

    New Member
    english
    And strangely we would always say 'A (nice) cup of hot chocolate'. (Perhaps to differentiate between cold, hard chocolate, and hot, melted chocolate).
    because "hot chocolate" is itself a two-word noun . one may have, in theory, a glass of cold "hot chocolate". :)

    In the USA, hot chocolate is the name of the drink. we don't really even consider it "chocolate" other than the fact that it's chocolatey, if you say 'chocolate', we think of the hard stuff only...
     

    Meeracat

    Senior Member
    I'm not persuaded that hot chocoloate is a two-word noun. I think that hot is an adjective which describes clearly the nature of the noun (chocolate). If you want a cup/glass of cold chocolate I think the clue lies in the recepticle to whether it is fluid or solid.
     

    iangreen

    New Member
    english
    what I meant to say was, at least in my upbringing, we don't consider 'hot chocolate' to be 'chocolate' - to us, "hot chocolate" is the name of a drink.

    whether or not that is accurate, I trust the english in the UK is more pure than the americans' :)
     

    ricardo6

    Member
    español
    Sometimes I think we sophisticate expressions and meanings a bit too much. Both a "hot cup of" and a "cup of hot" mean literally the same. Although being a purist a "hot cup" is a hot cup (could be empty and still being hot cup), and a " cup of hot..(whatever)" is a cup filled whith anything hot. We could complicate the issue endlessly. But after all both expressions mean, adress, the same object, a cup filled with some hot liquid. But is much easier to say a "hot cup of tea" isn't it?.
     

    iangreen

    New Member
    english
    Sometimes I think we sophisticate expressions and meanings a bit too much. Both a "hot cup of" and a "cup of hot" mean literally the same. Although being a purist a "hot cup" is a hot cup (could be empty and still being hot cup), and a " cup of hot..(whatever)" is a cup filled whith anything hot. We could complicate the issue endlessly. But after all both expressions mean, adress, the same object, a cup filled with some hot liquid. But is much easier to say a "hot cup of tea" isn't it?.
    in effect, yes. it works out the same way. "cup of" is like a measure, so "cup of tea" is kind of the noun, or nominal phrase.

    let me give you a good example though:

    if i order hot tea at a cafe, I would not say,

    "may I please have a hot cup of tea?"

    I should say,

    "may I please have a cup of hot tea"

    because 'cup of' is the measurement of what you want, and 'hot tea' is what you are ordering. (as opposed to iced tea, which is popular here too).

    but as you point out, both are acceptable.
     

    Eigenfunction

    Senior Member
    England - English
    I'm with Mole on this one. Cup of tea is such a common expression that we treat it as a single object and don't like to separate it in natural speech.
     

    iangreen

    New Member
    english
    that's absolutely correct, it's just that there are times when you want to specify that what is in your cup is hot tea as opposed to cold tea, such as the case I mentioned above :)
     

    C.S.Hy

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    So can I say " a savory loaf of bread"? Is it acceptable or natural? And what about "a red stick of chalk"?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    So can I say " a savory loaf of bread"? Is it acceptable or natural? And what about "a red stick of chalk"?
    "A savory loaf of bread" is completely unnatural. What kind of bread is "savory"?

    It is also unnatural to speak of a "red stick of chalk." The word usually used with "chalk" is piece rather than stick, although stick is not completely wrong, but it is a mistake to place "red" at the start of the phrase. I would instead say "a stick of red chalk."
     

    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    So can I say " a savory loaf of bread"? Is it acceptable or natural?
    Context! What do you want to say? Without context, the answer is likely to be 'No', in that the more usual form you might expect to meet would be 'a loaf of savoury bread' - though most savoury breads are not baked in the form of a loaf . Context is essential - as is obvious from the 'hot tea' answers. On which subject, I would never in a café say '"may I please have a hot cup of tea?" I expect tea to be hot. If I wanted iced tea, I certainly wouldn't say 'May I please have an iced cup of tea?' or even' May I have a cup of iced tea?' mainly because I have never known iced tea to be served in a cup, but I would certainly specify 'iced' -'May I please have an iced tea?'
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    On which subject, I would never in a café say '"may I please have a hot cup of tea?" I expect tea to be hot. If I wanted iced tea, I certainly wouldn't say 'May I please have an iced cup of tea?' or even' May I have a cup of iced tea?' mainly because I have never known iced tea to be served in a cup, but I would certainly specify 'iced' -'May I please have an iced tea?'
    Actually, location matters here. In the American South, "tea" typically means "iced tea", and the beverage that you and I would call "tea" is called "hot tea." I remember being in a diner in Albany, New York, some years ago with a group of people that included a man from Tennessee. When asked what he wanted to drink, he ordered "tea", and was annoyed when the waitress brought him a hot cup of tea rather than a glass of iced tea. The rest of us, being from the northeast, did not know why he expected anything else, while he thought it was clear that, since he had not said "hot tea", what he expected was the iced version.
     
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