I am learning Duolingo English course, one sentence is we make soup with pieces of meat. and the other one is We make a soup with the roots. When should I use a?


This can be tricky when make is in the present tense. Let's say I regularly make three kinds of soup: taratino soup, squamil soup, and Droverly soup.

Let's also say that I put chicken in all three recipes. In that case, it would be fitting to say:

I make soup with chicken.

Now, let's add one more fact: I use fresh kale when I make my squamil soup, but neither taratino soup nor Droverly soup use kale. In that case, I can say:

I make a soup with fresh kale.

I think it's worth pointing out that, in this context, we are dealing with Definition #6 from Collins:

meanings of "a"

Now, let's move to the past tense. Suppose I made soup last night, and I used some orzo. I can say either:

I made soup with orzo last night.
I made a soup with orzo last night.

There's no difference in meaning; they both mean the same thing.

Likewise, there's no difference when we use the present progressive tense:

I am making a soup with leeks.
I am making soup with leeks.

That's because soup can act as a mass noun (so no article would be required), but it can also take an article, whereby a soup essentially means a batch of soup.

  • Isn't there something else going on in case of the roots? It may be me, but "I use the whole plant: I make stew with the leafs, I deep fry the stalks and I make soup with the roots" does not sound as good as a version with "a stew" and "a soup".
    – oerkelens
    May 8 '14 at 12:35
  • @oerkelens - I agree, but there are other scenarios where omission of the article would be okay. For example: "When my brother cooks, he only uses the greens, but I like to make soup with the roots."
    – J.R.
    May 8 '14 at 14:02
  • I am starting to realize it was a good idea I did not try to answer this, and also, this question could be interesting on ELU :)
    – oerkelens
    May 8 '14 at 14:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.