charcoal vs. briquettes

Discussion in 'English Only' started by zaffy, Jan 11, 2019 at 7:33 PM.

  1. zaffy Senior Member

    Cracow
    Polish
    Dictionaries say 'charcoal' is uncountable while 'briquette' is countable. So are these sentence correct?

    "We're having a barbecue on Sunday so I need to get charcoal or briquettes."
    " I never know how to light charcoal in my barbecue"
    "Use briquettes rather than charcoal in your barbecue."
     
  2. AnythingGoes Senior Member

    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    Sentences 1 and 3 are grammatically correct but illogical because briquettes are made of charcoal. It's like saying Use gasoline rather than fuel in your car.

    Sentence 2 needs a definite article.
     
  3. zaffy Senior Member

    Cracow
    Polish
    I never know how to light charcoal in the barbecue" ok now?
     
  4. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    "Natural/real" charcoal (made from real wood) is not briquettes (made from compressed wood by-products).
     
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:
    For example:

    [​IMG]

    Moreover, I have some friends who are barbecue zealots who won't buy purchased charcoal OR briquets and start out well ahead of time by lighting dried hardwood of some sort.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 8:20 PM
  6. AnythingGoes Senior Member

    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    I did that for years. It's quite easy. So I'm a bit embarrassed to have mixed up charcoal and briquettes -- though it's easy to find bags labeled "charcoal briquettes" in a store. :)
     
  7. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Before "charcoal" or before "barbecue"?

    The rule is that countable nouns need a determiner before them. Both "the" and "my" are acceptable determiners: if you have "my" you don't need "the".

    So I think AnythingGoes is saying it should be "light the charcoal in my barbecue".
     
  8. zaffy Senior Member

    Cracow
    Polish
    But charcoal is uncountable, plus I don't see a reason why to use 'the' in that sentence. The charcoal doesn't seem to be definite here, does it?.

    "I never know how to light charcoal in the barbecue."
     
  9. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    "Light the charcoal in my barbecue" = "Light the charcoal (that is) in my barbecue"

    What charcoal are you lighting? All charcoal? No. Only the charcoal that is in your barbecue. The charcoal that is still in the bag from the store? You aren't lighting that.

    This is a common use of "the" with uncountable nouns:
    - the coffee in my cup
    - the spaghetti on my plate
     
  10. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    In AE, the word "briquette" means any small brick-shaped object. The things we burn in our barbeques are called "charcoal briquettes", not simply "briquettes". So I agree with post #2: this sentence makes no sense to me:

    I don't disagree with the people who talk about "natural charcoal", but that does not mean that people use the word "briquette" to mean "charcoal briquette".
     
  11. zaffy Senior Member

    Cracow
    Polish
    Yes, it clear to me if you talk about coffee or spaghetti that are now sitting on the plate or in the mug. eg. The spaghetti on my plate is delicious.

    But in the sentence 'I never know how to light charcoal in my barbecue' I take it as a general action, there is even no charcoal in the barbecue now. And how about
    'Can you tell me how to light charcoal in my barbecue?" ? I'm taking about general advice, no barbecue party now, I have a barbecue and I never know how to do it. I need some advice. Isn't it the same context? Isn't the charcoal indefinite here?
     
  12. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    You're complicating the issue by dwelling on so-called "rules" rather than idiomatic usage.

    It makes no difference whatsoever whether you say:

    Can you tell me how to light charcoal in my barbecue?
    or
    Can you tell me how to light the charcoal in my barbecue?

    Even if there's no charcoal in your BBQ now, we can safely assume from your question that you would not be waving an ignition source about if there were nothing to ignite at the appropriate time.
     

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