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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?

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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.

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  • 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, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 14:36

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