chicken (uncount) or a chicken?

newname

Senior Member
Vietnamese
Hi all,

Is 'chicken' countable in this context where it has been plucked and boiled/roasted and its legs and head cut; Now it's on a plate, ready to be served?

Dad: Here's our chicken for dinner.
Child: There's only you and me. And this is one huge chicken.

I wonder if 'one chicken' is good English as I was taught that this is the meat only so we can't call it 'a' chicken.
My instinct tells me this:
Child: There's only you and me. And this is huge chicken.
But it doesn't sound fine to me.

Thank you very much.
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    If the bird is still intact, regardless of whether it has been killed, plucked, and cooked, it can still be referred to as "a chicken." "Chicken" is uncountable when it refers to the meat itself: from the perspective of the diner, the substance of which the chicken is made.

    We would be more likely to say "a huge chicken" if it's still intact, and "a lot of chicken" if it's been dismembered.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I should add that even after they're cut up, they can still be countable. From "Why I LIve at the P.O.," by Eudora Welty:

    "There I was over the hot stove, trying to stretch two chickens over five people and a completely unexpected child into the bargain, without one moment's notice."
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Thank you Florentia52,

    Please advise me if chicken should be countable or uncountable in the following conversation. The child doesn't know if the dad has bought one whole chicken or dismembered chicken, either of which we usually buy in my country.
    Child: How much chicken did you buy? ; How many chickens did you buy?; Did you buy any chicken/ chickens for dinner?
    Dad: I bought a lot of chicken; I bought a lot of chickens; You know I have invited over some of my colleagues.

    Thank you.
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Hi Glenfarclas,

    I did not read your post because I was writing mine. But do you know a partitive to go with chicken, like a piece of cake, apart from the partitive 'amount'?

    Thank you.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Chicken is a bad choice of word to explore. We use both countable and uncountable forms, and there are two forms of the plural
    How much chicken did you buy? How many chickens did you buy? How many chicken did you buy? are all possible.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Please advise me if chicken should be countable or uncountable in the following conversation. The child doesn't know if the dad has bought one whole chicken or dismembered chicken, either of which we usually buy in my country.
    Child: How much chicken did you buy? ; How many chickens did you buy?; Did you buy any chicken/ chickens for dinner?
    Dad: I bought a lot of chicken; I bought a lot of chickens; You know I have invited over some of my colleagues.
    It depends on what you expect the answer to be. If Dad has to feed 20 people, then maybe it makes sense to ask "how many chickens" he bought. If you don't think he would have bought multiple whole chickens -- or if you want an answer like "5 kg" -- then "how much chicken" is the more normal question.

    I did not read your post because I was writing mine. But do you know a partitive to go with chicken, like a piece of cake, apart from the partitive 'amount'?
    Amount or quantity.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Please advise me if chicken should be countable or uncountable in the following conversation. The child doesn't know if the dad has bought one whole chicken or dismembered chicken, either of which we usually buy in my country.
    Child: How much chicken did you buy? ; How many chickens did you buy?; Did you buy any chicken/ chickens for dinner?
    Dad: I bought a lot of chicken; I bought a lot of chickens; You know I have invited over some of my colleagues.
    Both are possible and idiomatic. In the U.S., however, it is now much more common to buy chicken pieces rather than whole chickens, so "How much chicken did you buy?" would certainly be more common.

    But that doesn't make "How many chickens did you buy?" incorrect or unidiomatic. In households (such as mine) where it's still common to buy whole chickens, "How many chickens did you buy?" is still fine.

    As for how to describe the amount (which I think is what you were asking Glenfarclas), either pounds or pieces is possible with chicken. Cooks use pounds most often, but pieces is certainly possible, too.

    (Cross-posted with Glenfarclas)
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Cooks use pounds most often,
    ... in the US! Pretty much everywhere else in the world they'd use kilograms, at least for mass catering. Though most recipes I've seen for home cooking refer to pieces, or legs or breasts, rather than a weight.
    But I can't even imagine anyone saying "How many chicken?" Did you really mean that, Andy?
    I can't imagine that either. But I wonder if Andy was thinking of hunting/shooting terminology, where you bag a brace of partridge or a half-dozen pheasant ...? (Not that I've come across a chicken-shoot recently!;))

    Ws
     
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