As I have read that the noun "food" is generally uncountable, I am not quite sure when I should use "food" as a countable noun.

For instance,

Chicken and rice are food


Chicken and rice are foods

Could I use a number in front of foods?

Chicken and rice are two foods?

Should we use food or foods here?

  • 7
    "Food" is always a mass noun except when it means "kinds of food". So: "High carb foods", "Gluten-free foods." "Chicken and rice are food", but ""Chicken and rice are nutritious foods". Oct 28, 2016 at 3:20
  • 1
    @P.E.Dant you should make your comment into an answer. It's +1 from me, if you do.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2016 at 11:24
  • @P.E.Dant your comment has five upvotes. Please, just copy your comment in an answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 29, 2016 at 7:29

2 Answers 2


It depends on what you mean.

Chicken and rice are food.

Chicken and rice are members of the category 'food'. They are stuff you can eat.

Chickens and rice are food.

This is the same thing, but referring to the natural state of chickens as individual animals and (by analogy) to rice as a plant. These things, which you can find in nature, can be eaten.

Chicken and rice are foods.

Both chicken and rice are kinds of food. Either one, taken separately, is a kind of stuff you can eat.

Chicken and rice are two foods.

This is the same thing, emphasizing that these are just two options out of a larger category.

Chickens and rice are foods.
Chicken and rice are two food.

These are just wrong. 'Chickens' are not a foodstuff but the animals themselves; they are not a kind of food but a source of it. Uncountable nouns are definitionally not able to be counted.

When to use them depends on the categories you're talking about.

Chickens are (for most people) food but (for everyone) they are an animal and not a subcategory of foodstuff (i.e., a food); chicken and rice are both food and kinds of food (i.e., foods); chicken and rice can be Vietnamese food but are not kinds of Vietnamese food (i.e., foods); com chien and banh tet are kinds of Vietnamese food (i.e., foods).


"Food" is always a mass noun, except when used to mean "kinds of food." For example:

  • Baby foods – the varieties of food eaten by babies.
  • Gluten-free foods – varieties of food that do not contain gluten.
  • Processed foods – ready-to-eat or pre-prepared food, often less healthy.

See also this definition, with examples, from Oxford Dictionaries.

  • By the way, is it foods is in such case or foods are? Nov 3, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    @SovereignSun: "Foods are," as it's a plurality of varieties/types/kinds of food – Gluten-free foods are fruit, vegetables, potatoes, and fish, among others.
    – LMS
    Nov 4, 2016 at 16:15

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