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as far as I know:
In the UK "an item of fruit" can be replaced with "a fruit".
In the USA "an item of fruit" can be replaced with "a piece of fruit".

For example:
(1a) John ate three fruits: two apples and a pear. - correct for most Britons
(1b) John ate three pieces of fruit: two apples and a pear. - correct for most Americans

I'm interested whether we can use the word "food" the same way as "fruit" or not.
I mean: is it correct that:
In the UK "an article/item of food" can be replaced with "a food".
In the USA "an article/item of food" can be replaced with "a piece of food".

If you need an example, here is what I could come up with:

(2a) Bob bought three foods: bananas for himself, bananas for his father and nuts for his mother. - is it correct in the UK?
(2b) Bob bought three pieces of food: bananas for himself, bananas for his father and nuts for his mother. - is it correct in the USA?

If (2a) & (2b) sound odd I will be glad if you offer your variants.


Upd. 1: I was told in the comments below (2b) is incorrect because:
"Each banana and each nut would be considered a separate piece"
but then maybe (2c) is correct:
(2c) Bob bought FIVE pieces of food: two bananas for himself, two bananas for his father and a pack of nuts for his mother. - is it correct in the USA?


Upd. 2: I was told in the comments below (2c) is also incorrect because:
"A pack of nuts is not a piece of food" but "an item of food."
then (2d) must be correct:
(2d) Bob bought SEVEN pieces of food: two bananas for himself, two bananas for his father and three tomatoes for his mother. - is it correct in the USA?

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  • 1
    2b is not correct. Each banana and each nut would be considered a separate piece. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 7:44
  • @JeffreyCarney Could you look at (2c) I've just added to the end of my question?
    – Loviii
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 7:59
  • 1
    A pack of nuts is not a piece of food. As Astralbee points out, you could consider it an item of food. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:03
  • @JeffreyCarney Thank you! I've added (2d) which must be correct. Am I right?
    – Loviii
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:15
  • 1
    2d looks OK. But please stop updating the question. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:20

2 Answers 2

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Your example with fruit not really okay in British English. Most speakers of British English would not use the countable "fruits" like that. Instead "piece of fruit" would be more acceptable in British.

Similarly the use of "foods" is odd. You can use "a food" to mean "a type of edible thing", in which case you only brought two foods (bananas and nuts). But to be honest, you simply don't count food like that. The countable word "foods" is used mostly in rather scientific contexts, when talking about the nutritional value of different foods. You would just say "Bob brought food, bananas for himself and his father, and nuts for his mother".

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  • 2
    I see your greengrocers (or fruiterer's) apostrophe. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:00
  • 1
    The plural foods is only used in a 'scientific' context, when talking about the nutritional value of different types of food, for example. If you must mention types of food in 2a, it's only 2 types - bananas and nuts! Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:14
  • 1
    See this question Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:24
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"Food" and "fruit" are non-countable nouns, as they can refer to all food and all fruit.

So, if I said "I went to the shop and bought three fruits", that could mean I bought 9 bananas, 7 mangoes and 10 apples. I have bought three types of fruit, but varying numbers of pieces of each.

But, if I said "I bought three pieces of fruit" that would mean just three pieces of anything. I could have bought 2 apples and 1 banana, or any other combination. If I'd bought 3 pieces of the same fruit, I would probably be more specific and name the fruit, ie "I bought three bananas".

The same would be true if you used the word "foods" - your examples just aren't particularly idiomatic. We might say "I bought three items of food", but 'food' is such a broad term you'd be including foods that are packaged and sold in so many different ways, one 'item' might be a punnet containing 15 strawberries, or a bag of 6 apples.

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