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When do we use articles before dishes? For example, "My favourite dish is a fruit salad" or no article. Are there any rules?

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    Didn't you just ask a similar question?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 2 at 19:33
  • Someone told me to make a new thread Commented Jan 2 at 19:35
  • Yes, it was not clear and not properly written. This is better, yes.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 2 at 19:39
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Naming things articles
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 2 at 19:40
  • A "dish" is something less generic than "fruit salad", for example coq au vin or "cherries jubilee" or "shepherd's pie" or "baked Alaska".
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 3 at 0:05

3 Answers 3

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There is no set rule on whether a certain word or phrase takes an article or not. It depends on what you are trying to say, and whether the article is appropriate for the context.

For example:

"My favorite dish is fruit salad" - This does not use an article; you are talking about the general idea of fruit salad, and not about a specific fruit salad.

"My favorite dish last night was a fruit salad" - Your favorite dish last night was a specific fruit salad, but one that the listener does not know about.

"My favorite dish last night was the fruit salad" - Your favorite dish last night was a specific fruit salad that the lister knows about.

"I ate fruit salad last night" - Fruit salad was a thing that you ate last night.

"I ate a fruit salad last night" - You ate a specific fruit salad last night which the listener does not know about.

"I ate the fruit salad last night" - You ate a specific fruit salad that is known to the listener.

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  • But for example with the word omelet I awalys use articles right? Commented Jan 2 at 19:46
  • @Samgra Not necessarily, you can say "My favourite dish is cheese omelette." Commented Jan 2 at 19:49
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    Fruit salad is generally uncountable as a food that you eat. You don't have "one fruit salad" or "two fruit salads". Because of that, it's "I like fruit salad," but "I like sandwiches." That said, batches or portions of fruit salad can be treated as countable, so "there were two fruit salads at the party tonight."
    – YonKuma
    Commented Jan 2 at 20:27
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    A lot of foods have a core uncountable usage and then one or more countable usages. For the sentence "I like x," you use the singular for generally uncountable foods and plural for the ones that are always countable.
    – YonKuma
    Commented Jan 2 at 20:39
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    @Lambie I interpret "My favorite food is {x}" as being an example sentence in the question, whereas the actual question is about whether meals as a class never take an article.
    – YonKuma
    Commented Jan 4 at 17:41
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You use the article "a" with singular countable nouns, but not when used attributively. In your examples, you would never use an article, but you may need to use a plural.

Some foods (and other words) are usually countable. In your example, you'd use a plural. There is no article with indefinite plural:

I like chips / I like apples / I like hats.

Some foods are non-count:

I like rice / I like cheese / I like spotted dick.

You don't see "a" or "an" with these.

Some foods have both a countable and non-countable form. The countable is for counting the food when it comes in countable servings.

I would like three coffees. I want two fruit salads.

But if you are talking about these foods as a substance, you would use them as non-count nouns

My favourite drink is coffee. My favourite food is fruit salad.

You'll need to learn when a food can be treated as uncountable. Sometimes it is easy to guess, sometimes you may be surprised.

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  • What about when I want to say I like Mac royal do I need any article here? Commented Jan 3 at 9:05
  • You never need an article, but you need to decide if you need plural or not. Try to decide if the plural "Mac Royals" works.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 3 at 9:14
  • With mac royal I need no article because it is more like a proper name is that right? For example when I say my favourite dish an omelet I use an article because the word omelet i always countable and mac royal would be only countable when i refer to portions yes? Commented Jan 3 at 9:22
  • No. Please read my answer again. In the expressions "I like {}" you never use an article. You either use an uncountable noun "I like coffee", or you use a plural "I like apples". "Mac Royal" (which I assume is some type of hamburger, it's not sold in the UK) is countable. "I like Mac Royals". "I like omelettes". "I like cheese". No articles in these sentences only plurals and non-count singular.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 3 at 9:34
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    Yes, but "food" seems more approriate than dish.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 3 at 10:22
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My favorite dessert is fruit salad.
My favorite dish is potatoes au gratin.
My favorite food is ice cream.
My favorite food is fried chicken.
My favorite main course is roast beef.

All those are general ideas and taking the food as an uncountable noun. No determiner.

COMPARE: There was a fruit salad served inside a hollowed-out pineapple.
An ice cream is what I like for dessert.
A piece of fried chicken can be very tasty.
There was a fruit salad on the dining table. The fruit salad was on the table.

A/the/plural as needed for a countable noun. *There were three different fruit salads on the table. *That kid ate three ice creams!

A fruit salad is not usually called a "dish". A dish is usually main course food or cooked food.

None of those, in simple form as above, takes a determiner.

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  • Disregard the downvoters. I gave examples only for this usage.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 4 at 17:34
  • I would disagree about not calling a fruit salad a dish. On the other hand an apple or a Mars bar would not be called a dish.
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 5 at 2:21
  • @Peter I suggest you check some menus written by English speakers.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 7 at 16:52
  • I don't recall ever seeing the word "dish" actually used in a menu. But perhaps there are regional differences in the use of the word.
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 10 at 0:22
  • @Peter For example, for the term dish: thedefineddish.com
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 10 at 16:20

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