Many people say on Hanami, we eat foods and drink alcohols. I feel this is a natural for the situation. Because you’re speaking about a general activity right? Eating food and drinking alcohol. If you say we eat foods, it sounds like you said you’re eating varieties of foods. So you’re focusing on variety. But in that case we would say we eat different foods are we eating variety of foods. If you say we drink alcohols. It sounds like you’re drinking different brands of medical alcohol like the type you put on the wound to something like that. Yuck . Now, we eat food is a set of activity. And the same thing with drinking alcohol. So, the focus is not on variety, Alcohol or food. But just both activities being done together. We eat food and drink alcohol is the best way to express Hanami, if you want us to go. But if they go sometimes, to the park and see the crazy business men dancing, they might think they drinking many alcohols.
At Hanami (Cherry Blossom hangout), you eat foods and drink alcohols?
When discussing what type of general activity happens at an event, we need to understand what exactly we’re expressing. A slight difference in a noun could give an unintended impression.
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
This is an issue of countable and non-countable noun confusion. That’s all.
To simplify the distinction:
- COUNTABLE NOUNS: Objects that have a common form or shape that anyone can recognize. Therefore, you can or do generally count. Some concepts can also be counted. Examples are: cars, ides, cups, bottles, trips, songs, and video games as in “I play many video games.”
- UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS: A lot of one small thing put together. These also are either concepts or objects. That’s it.
- Water = a bunch of hydrogen and oxygen together
- Rice = a bunch of grains of rice together
- Light = a bunch of light particles
- Grass = a bunch of short narrow plants together
- Gold = a bunch of the 79th atomic element
- Dirt = a bunch of mud or dust
- Research = a bunch of facts, information together
- Homework = a bunch of task assigned outside of school
- Luck = a bunch of good or bad things perceived together
- Business = a bunch of activities for sales or making profit
‘Foods’ and ‘Drinks’?
It may seem like a headache to constantly think carefully in order to figure out which nouns are uncountable. But one helpful trick in language learning is simply drilling and memorizing a bunch of the types of nouns and your brain will usually make a pattern for you. This article is mainly to help you recognize the difference.
Now back to the simplicity of ‘Food’ vs. ‘Foods’, and ‘Drink’ vs. ‘Drinks’.
- Food = a bunch of foods together.
- Foods = a variety of foods.
- Drink = The word “Drink” is occasionally use when explaining what will be at an event or gathering. “We will have food and drink.”
- Drinks = a variety of drinks together. (Because drinks are usually separated into bottles, cups, or containers i.e. cooler) This version is used more often
Counting Uncountable Nouns
Adding ’s’ to traditionally uncountable nouns is correct if you’re expressing in the manner of:
- “We have waters in the corner.” = bottles of water or possibly varieties of water. (Like sparkling, flavored)
- “There are lights at the event.” = multiple lights or varieties of light (like strobe lights)
Practice makes perfect
Native people usually make these distinctions naturally, and like I said before you may feel it’s unfair that you have to make extra mental effort to express such simple distinctions.
But take my advice: After you understand this concept, you only need to drill some words to cement the concept. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re doing a wonderful thing by attempting to improve your second language. Japan needs you!
It’s no easy task. But it’s simple. Just keep at it and coming back to our articles for practical advice and mindset adjustments.
In a few years, after the Olympics, I expect to throw a party with all dedicated English speakers, I’ll provide a lot of food and drink, along with different cultural foods and alcoholic drinks.
Now before you go, I just wanted to let you know the reality.
The reality that uncountable nouns can be counted. But just not the way you were counting before…and we don’t usually use it unless we are being precise and descriptive…Uhhh…check part two if you wish to find out how to count uncountable nouns.[日本語訳へ]