My English learner app said "a bit of toothpaste" was wrong but didn't say the reason. Could you please tell me why?

The app test goes like this.

Choose the correct one:
a bit of ______


Then only A is the right answer. I feel both are right.

2 Answers 2

  1. "A bit of toothpaste"
  2. "A bit of information"

Both nouns are uncountable but a bit of information, i.e. "news", is the more common collocation. However, both phrases are perfectly grammatical.

Examples from here

  • Quite a bit of information was provided by the local business

  • Yes, one does require a bit of information about planes, visas and such.

  • A bit of Googling can give you the contact information you need

  • The area received quite a bit of snow this past week

  • You need a bit of luck in this game

  • How the brain converts speech into meaningful information is a bit of a puzzle

  • In other words, @i’malittlebus is right? Both A and B are correct and the app is wrong? Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:30
  • Instead of asking "choose the correct one", in my opinion the app should have said "choose the best one" I found two instances with "toothpaste". 1. Moisten the silver piece and apply a bit of toothpaste to your finger. and 2. If that doesn't work, a bit of toothpaste on a dry cloth, and a firm wipe, might do.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:31
  • Ok. I’m not even sure there is a clear “best” here though. Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:33
  • @OrbitalAussie I should have said the "most common" collocation.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:37
  • 1
    Yes, fair enough. My argument is with the app - it is an odd and confusing test for an English Learner no matter how you look at it. Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:47

It’s fine to say in British English, “a bit of" is a common collocation here to mean "a small amount of something":

The Guardian:

I am a voice on the radio, that is all. No one knows what I look like. I can go to work in my jeans and jumper with a bit of toothpaste down the front and no one is any the wiser

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/may/12/alice-arnold-litter-twitter-storm

and it looks it is attested for in the NY times (an American newspaper) too!

NY times:

There are safety tips ("Children should only use a toothbrush at the sink," and if they are younger than 6, they should use a bit of toothpaste the size of a baby pea); a discussion of tongues, including the "geographic tongue" that resembles a map, with red patches and white edges; and even a look at the mineral-laden saliva that forms tartar. The New York Times - Health 3

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/25/health/books-on-health-good-teeth-good-health.html

Other common collocates:

enter image description here

Source: https://ludwig.guru/s/a+bit+of+toothpaste

  • Yes, but what about the central question? Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:50
  • @OrbitalAussie Which central question is that? I believe whether the app is right or wrong is irrelevant as Mari-LouA pointed out they're both grammatical, are they not? I attested for the usage of "a bit of toothpaste" (which answer's the OP's question; they can form their own opinion to the "right answer"). But I think it's pretty pointless debating if the app is right if: 1) "a bit of toothpaste" is grammatical or 2) we are questioning the validty/reliability of said app.
    – aesking
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 13:56

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