cough syrup(uncountable/singular/plural)

sinkya

Senior Member
Chinese
Could you tell me how I should treat cough syrup, uncountable, in the singular, or plural?

”I can't stop coughing. I need a cough syrup / cough syrup /cough syrups / some cough syrups.”

"cough syrup" sounds good to me, but could you tell me if that is what native speakers would say?

If these sentences sound unnatural, please rephrase them for me.

Thank you.
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    A cough syrup = a bottle of cough syrup or a brand of cough syrup.
    If you go into a pharmacy, you normally ask for some cough syrup (like some sugar, which is a non-count noun normally).
    But the pharmacist may say to you We have five different cough syrups. This refers to the products of different manufacturers and cough syrup is then used as a count noun.

    The important word when you are asking is some/any.
    For example, Have you any red wine/I'd like some red wine.
    You are thinking not of the bottle, but the contents.

    What we don't tend to say in a shop is I'd like red wine (except in a restaurant when the waiter asks you Would you like red or white wine?).
     
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    sinkya

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What we don't say is I'd like red wine (except in a restaurant when the waiter asks you Would you like red or white wine?).
    Thank you, e2efour.

    Does this apply to cough syrup and other uncountable nouns, usually? Not "I need milk with these cookies." but "I need some milk with these cookies", if you are just talking to yourself?

    Thank you in advance!
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If you are talking to yourself, you can say whatever you want. :)
    But if you go into a shop, you can or can't say the following:

    1) Can I have some milk?:tick:
    2) Can I have milk?:cross: (sounds strange if you are only buying one item)
    3) I'd like some milk.:tick:
    4) I'd like milk.:cross: (unless you are reading from a list or you say I'd like milk, butter and cough syrup)

    In other words, with non-count nouns you normally say some. I want to buy some furniture today. But with a count noun you say I want to buy a sofa.

    There are contexts where you do not have to use some or an article, but in general I want X sounds strange in isolation.

    There are exceptions (as always!). For example, you say I need help/protection/advice as well as I need some help/protection/advice.

    It also occurs to me that you can always say I would like some X, when X is a product and a count or a non-count noun.
    What you have to remember is to use the count noun in the plural (I need some biscuits) and the non-count noun in the singular (I need some brown paper).
     
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    sinkya

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If you are talking to yourself, you can say whatever you want. :)

    In other words, with non-count nouns you normally say some. I want to buy some furniture today. But with a count noun you say I want to buy a sofa.
    Thank you so much, e2efour. Your first sentence is funny! Your answer is very helpful. I read other furniture threads but I could not find my answer.

    Do you say "I want to buy some furniture today." when you want to buy a sofa, or, when you want to buy a table and four chairs?

    Thank you again, in advance!
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    A sofa is a piece of furniture.
    You go to a shop to buy some furniture or furniture, but you say to the salesperson I'd like some furniture.
    When in doubt with a non-count product, use some and you can be fairly certain that it sounds natural.

    You can say I went to the shop yesterday and bought furniture, but although this is correct, you normally say some furniture.

    Mrs Young went to her nearest department store last week, where she bought some furniture, some towels and some cups and saucers.
     

    sinkya

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    A sofa is a piece of furniture.
    You go to a shop to buy some furniture or furniture, but you say to the salesperson I'd like some furniture.
    Sorry, my question was maybe not clear enough.

    Do you say "some furniture" even when you know you only want a piece of furniture?
    e.g."I want some furniture." to the salesperson.

    Or, :

    You: "I went to the department store yesterday and bought some furniture."
    Your friend : "What did you buy?"
    You: "I bought a sofa."

    Thank you again.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    If you knew what piece of furniture you wanted, sinkya, you'd be unlikely to say "I want some furniture". You'd probably say "I want an armchair" or "... a sofa/table/wardrobe" or whatever.

    On your second point: yes, that conversation with your friend is fine. You might well be unspecific with your friend; you're just saying that you went furniture shopping — whereas with the salesperson you'd need to be specific. As always, it all depends on the context.

    Ws:)
     
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