8

When you offer somebody two slices of apple on a plate, which sentence would you choose?

  1. Would you like some apple?

  2. Would you like some apples?

  • 2
    Would you like a couple slices of apple? – snailcar May 7 '15 at 12:24
  • In general, it depends on what the speaker is offering the addressee, e.g. a platter of apple slices versus a platter/basket of apples. In your case, usually #1 would be heard when slices of apple are being offered. -- Though, it is probably not out of the question to also hear #2, where a speaker could be considering each slice as an "apple slice", and so, the speaker is offering a plate that holds two apple slices, and they are offering both slices (both "apples") to you. Context is important here, as is the speaker's intention and perspective. – F.E. May 7 '15 at 17:40
  • Grammar topics dealing with food, such as substances and servings, for those kinds of usage, you'll probably be best served listening to native English speakers and see how they speak. There's some related info in the 2002 reference grammar CGEL, e.g. pages 334-8; though I'm not sure if they have an example directly related to your issue. There probably isn't adequate info on this topic in the usual EFL textbook or even in grammar textbooks for native speakers, and so, whatever rules those books have will most likely not be adequate, and will most likely be misleading here for your topic. – F.E. May 7 '15 at 18:31
8

"Would you like some apple?" is correct.

You are not offering the person several apples; in fact, you're offering them less than one apple (unless your slices are absurdly large).

Because of this, it is correct to use the mass noun "apple", which refers to the "stuff" an apple is made of, of which you are offering them two slices. This is because although what you are offering them is apple (ie. it has the structure, taste, chemical composition etc. which characterises apple; it is "apple-stuff"), it is not an apple (in which case you would ask them "Would you like an apple?"), and it is not several apples (in which case, grammatically, you would ask "Would you like some apples?")

  • Thank you, Watercleave. In that case, why people are saying, "I am having some apples or oranges this morning" refering to some two or three slices of apple and orange. – Joe Kim May 7 '15 at 15:02
  • 1
    @JoeKim, because people do not always speak with correct grammar, especially when making informal comments. – cjm May 7 '15 at 18:13
  • 2
    i would argue it is correct grammar, because it's something people say. language is defined by usage. – Apologize and reinstate Monica May 7 '15 at 18:24
  • @JoeKim In the phrase "I am having some apple or orange ....", "apple" and "orange" could be adjectives, for example describing the colour or flavour of something that is not literally an apple or orange. But if the listener makes that assumption the end of the sentence doesn't make sense, so he/she has to back-track to figure out what it means. "Some apples" can only be a noun phrase, not an adjective, so it avoids the ambiguous grammar. – alephzero May 7 '15 at 19:47
  • 1
    @JoeKim this is a case of synecdoche, where the speaker is using "apples" to mean "pieces of apple". For casual speech, this is perfectly idiomatic and sounds fine to me in your example. However, it can sound weird in some cases so it might be best to avoid saying it that way yourself when you're not sure. – Sabre May 7 '15 at 19:52
1

Neither sentence is correct. "Would you like some apple slices?" or "Would you like a couple of apple slices?" would make more sense since you are referring to the slices.

I would say that the mass noun classification doesn't apply to the word apple. Apples are not made up of apple. They are made up of apple pulp, with an apple skin.

  • Nor are pies made up of pie, strictly speaking; they are composed of pastry, and a filling (which is usually heterogenous in and of itself). We nonetheless say "Would you like some pie?" – Watercleave May 7 '15 at 19:18
  • @Watercleave Yes. But this doesn't work with Apples. I'm not disputing the concept of a mass noun. I'm saying to doesn't work with this word. – Alex McKenzie May 7 '15 at 19:20
  • A friend holds an apple and a knife, smiles at you and says, "Would you like some apple?" – WhatRoughBeast May 8 '15 at 2:41
  • 1
    @WhatRoughBeast. Maybe it's regional, but I've never heard anyone use apple that way. I would imagine they would say, "Want a slice?". I feel silly talking about how people say apple. – Alex McKenzie May 8 '15 at 2:45
  • I'm not saying it's likely, I'm just saying that it's not wrong, and would be immediately comprehensible. And yes, this exchange seems rather surreal. Ce n'est pas une pomme. – WhatRoughBeast May 8 '15 at 18:20

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