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There are two pair sentences about products in Japan, as follows.

Which one, each, is better or (more) correct? And why?

  1. food vs foods

1a) More than 60% of food consumed in Japan is imported from abroad.

1b) More than 60% of foods consumed in Japan are imported from abroad.

Some definitions say:

  • food (uncountable): general things to eat
  • foods (countable): various food products

1b. ? In fact, I can find it in many official documents.

  1. clothing vs clothes

2a) More than 90% of clothing sold in Japan is made abroad.

2b) More than 90% of clothes sold in Japan are made abroad.

Definitions from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

  • clothing[uncountable]: clothes, especially a particular type of clothes
  • clothes[plural]: the things that you wear, such as trousers, dresses and jackets

2b?

What do you think about these?

Thanks in advance.

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  • I would say that 1a means '60% of the total amount of food' and 1b '60% of the different types of food (grain, meat, vegetables etc.). I think 1a is the more likely interpretation. The distinction between 2a and 2b is less clear. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 8:00
  • Sentences are for translation from Japanese to English and discussed on those products (in Japanese original sentences). So 1b is more likely, isn't it?
    – T.K.Tommy
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 11:00
  • @T.K.Tommy Given that context, “foods” is better than “food,” but note Kate Bunting’s comment. In any case, once you are talking about types of food, the sentence becomes ambiguous in English. Does it mean 60% of the types eaten but less than 10% of the calories consumed or that 60% of both types and of calories? It may be ambiguous in the original Japanese, but, if not, you need to avoid ambiguity in the translation. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 14:28
  • In the original Japanese sentences, in both cases, the original meaning/nuance is 'eaten' rather than 'consumed'. And the number of the products.
    – T.K.Tommy
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 14:04

1 Answer 1

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In your food example, I suspect that “food” rather than “foods” matches the intended meaning, but I cannot be sure given the limited context.

If what is meant is that most of what people in Japan eat, measured in calories or kilograms or whatever, is imported, then “food” is the better choice. This is the general, uncountable meaning.

If what is meant is that most of the different types of food eaten in Japan are imported, then “foods” is the better choice.

In many cases, “clothing“ and “clothes” can be treated as synonym, but “clothing” is less personal in its connotations than “clothes.

The U.S. imports a great deal of clothing from East Asia.

She always wears the most stylish clothes.

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  • As I mentioned above, those are about products. And, the Oxford says for the 'particular', so 2b seems to be appropriate for me but how should I think the definition?
    – T.K.Tommy
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 11:27
  • If you mean food products, it would make your meaning clearer to say so. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 12:49

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