a slice of a cake

Ivan_I

Senior Member
Russian
The normal way to say this is:

She ate a slice of cake.

I wonder why it is not:

She ate a slice of a cake.
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    Please give us some context. In what situation would you say this? Are you referring to a specific cake, to one of a particular group of cakes, or to cake in general?
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Well,

    Yesterday Jane went to a party and there was a cake served. She ate a slice of the cake (or a slice of cake).
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Well, I think the usage of an article in that sentence should be based on the same reasoning which is applied to any instance when an article is used.

    I understand that:
    She made/bought/had cake. (is wrong)
    But
    She made/bought/had a/the cake/ (is correct)

    By the same token, it seems logical to have it in my first sentence otherwise it looks like the sentence:
    She made/bought/had cake.

    Just pondering over...
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    'A slice of cake' means a slice of something we call 'cake'. A bit like 'a glass of water' or 'a pint of beer'. No article is needed when we say 'she ate a slice of cake/drunk a glass of water/enjoyed a pint of beer'.

    If we are referring to a particular cake, then yes, we might say 'She had a slice of the cake'.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    'A slice of cake' means a slice of something we call 'cake'. A bit like 'a glass of water' or 'a pint of beer'. No article is needed when we say 'she ate a slice of cake/drunk a glass of water/enjoyed a pint of beer'.

    If we are referring to a particular cake, then yes, we might say 'She had a slice of the cake'.
    One sec. Aren't "water" and "beer" uncountable? I think they are. That's why we don't need an article. But "cake" is (or can be) countable. So, we need an article.

    Why not then "a slice of a cake"?
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    She bought a bag of apples.

    He spoke to the crowd of people.

    The shop was full of bargains.

    Brexit is full of dangers.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    We need context.
    Both cake and apple tart can be used as uncountable.
    They put (a) cake and (an) apple tart on the table.
    She had a small slice of (the) cake and a very large slice of (the) tart.

    I'm sorry, I can't help you with 'rules'. It seems to me to be a question of choice here. 'Rules' can only be guidelines.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    One sec. Aren't "water" and "beer" uncountable? I think they are. That's why we don't need an article. But "cake" is (or can be) countable. So, we need an article.
    Why not then "a slice of a cake"?
    Let me make it simple for you:
    Because it's not always appropriate in natural, i.e. idiomatic English.
    The sooner you are able to accept this principle, the sooner your knickers will untwist. :D
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    'Water' and 'beer' can also be countable. They can be both - as can 'cake'.
    It's not the point. In your examples "a glass of water/beer" water and beer are uncountable. And in mine "cake" is countable.

    She bought a bag of apples.

    He spoke to the crowd of people.

    The shop was full of bargains.

    Brexit is full of dangers.
    Irrelevant examples, sorry. People/bargains/dangers are all in plural that's why there is no need for an article.

    Let me make it simple for you:
    Because it's not always appropriate in natural, i.e. idiomatic English.
    The sooner you are able to accept this principle, the sooner your knickers will untwist. :D
    To accept this principle is easy, but it's more difficult to know when exactly this principle works.

    In this context I consider the cake to be countable:

    Yesterday Jane went to a party and there was a cake served. She ate a slice of the cake (or a slice of cake).

    If it's countable there must be an article... but it's not there... Hmm... Don't know what to think... but thank you all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In that context, you are right, 'cake' is countable, and so 'She ate a slice of the cake' is correct.

    But in, say, 'For lunch I had two slices of bread and butter, a piece of cheese, a slice of cake, a piece of fruit, a cup of coffee and a half of lager, no articles are needed.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    One sec. Aren't "water" and "beer" uncountable? I think they are. That's why we don't need an article. But "cake" is (or can be) countable. So, we need an article.

    Why not then "a slice of a cake"?
    You have given the answer here. "Cake" can be, but is not always, countable. In the expression "a slice of cake", it is not countable. It is being used to mean a substance, not a discrete object.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    We say "Jane ate a slice of the cake" because we know from the previous sentence which cake we were talking about. A sample sentence from a well-known grammar book written by an aquatic bird whose first name is that of an archangel ( ;), no commercial references allowed) is something like (my memory is imperfect) "I had a sandwich and an apple for lunch.The sandwich was tasty, but the apple wasn't very good."
     
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