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In oral speech or writing, it is grammatically correct to say "let's eat some brain"? Could you please give me some example of a more correct form of this kind of expression?

Edit

Thank you for your answers. Anyway, I apologize for being mysterious about the context of my question. My friends and I have a web radio show; this week we are going to talk about zombies and the title of the episode is "Let's eat some brain!", so I was wondering if a native english speaker would approve this sentence.

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    You might want to specify what sort of brain you're referring to; I assume cow or goat or deer or the like. (Monkey?) – Nathan Tuggy Jun 11 '15 at 20:37
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    @Nathan - I assume you haven't watched the new TV series called iZombie. – J.R. Jun 11 '15 at 20:40
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    From the Wiki article: "David Anders as Blaine DeBeers: The series main antagonist. His base of operations is a local butcher shop from which he runs a home delivery service of gourmet prepared brain meals for wealthy zombie customers." As a fan of that show, that's immediately where my mind went – pass the hot sauce :^) – J.R. Jun 11 '15 at 20:46
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    If you are putting words into the mouths of zombies, I don't think you need to worry about how grammatical the zombies talk. Can zombies talk? They don't say words or sentences in Left4Dead, do they? Both Let's eat some brain and Let's eat brains, as well as Let's eat brain are correct. Zombies, if they talk, may just say Brain! or Brains! – user6951 Jun 11 '15 at 23:51
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    @writingthesis - Speculating may be fun, but it also can stand in the way of getting a useful answer. – J.R. Jun 12 '15 at 7:46
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Could you please give me some example of a more correct form of this kind of expression?

This is tricky. Some nouns are mass nouns, meaning they can be regarded as plural, even in their singular form. We see this a lot with food and drink, and the construct in your question works just fine:

Let's eat some rice. Let's drink some milk.

Other times, we have countable nouns, where we say differentiate between a single item and multiple items by using the singular and the plural:

Let's make a sandwich. (one sandwich)
Let's make some sandwiches. (more than one sandwich)

Where it gets even trickier is some nouns can be used in as a mass noun, a singular noun, or a plural noun, and the meaning changes slightly, along with the article. For example:

Let's eat a chicken. (this means we will eat one chicken).

In that case, dinner will probably look like this:

enter image description here

Or, we might say:

Let's eat some chicken.

This could mean a lot of different things: chicken a la king, sweet and sour chicken, fried chicken, grilled chicken drumsticks, etc.

Finally, there is:

Let's eat some chickens.

This is probably the least common for chicken, but it's still grammatically correct. (It means that more than one chicken is going to be cooked and eaten.) Moreover, while this might sound odd for some foods, it might sound quite natural for other foods – "Let's cook some game hens," for example, or "Let's have hamburgers for dinner."


In summary, any of the following are grammatically sound:

(1) I ate some liver.
(2) I ate a liver.
(3) I ate some livers.

However, #2 implies the person ate one and only one liver (and probably ate the whole thing), and #3 implies more than one was eaten. In restaurant reviews, I think form #1 would prevail, but one of the other forms might work better in the genre of macabre fiction.

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  • Yeah, your answer is a heck of a lot better than mine. :) – Michael Dorgan Jun 11 '15 at 21:14
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    Some brain that J.R.'s got on him! – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 11 '15 at 21:43
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    But in my experience, "brains" seems to be a special case. I've never seen the singular form on a menu. It's always "brains and eggs" or "braised calf brains", etc. Likewise in Spanish: you can have tacos de cabeza ("head"), or tacos de sesos ("brains"). – Lee Daniel Crocker Jun 11 '15 at 23:27
  • +1 for answering a question with cannibalistic undertones with a reference to Silence of the Lambs. Or that may just be my sick mind seeing that :) – oerkelens Jun 12 '15 at 9:32
  • Your answer goes into some detail, but fails to answer the actual question in the summary. Can you summarize your answer with brains instead of liver to answer the actual question? (I feel it should mostly be "let's eat some brains" instead; "let's eat some brain" just sounds wrong.) – Pranab Jun 12 '15 at 9:40
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That sort of expression "let's eat some (singular noun)" would be appropriate for mass nouns - basically things you can't/wouldn't count for which the singular is also used as the term for a larger collection.

So "Let's eat some rice" and "Let's drink some water" work. But "Let's eat some dumpling." usually wouldn't because they're countable.

You'd usually say "Let's eat some dumplings," or perhaps "I'll eat a dumpling," if there were only one.

Brains are countable, so if you're specifically looking at particular brains to eat, it's generally "Let's eat some brains."

However, there are occasions when you might say "Let's eat some brain," for example, if you were only going to have a small part of a brain (so that part is effectively a continuous fraction rather than a discrete named piece, like eating jelly, say), or perhaps when talking about it as a class of things to eat (either case fits with the notion of not being countable).

[This is really an oversimplification of the actual situation, but it often leads to the correct conclusion about what to say.]

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Brain or brains is an uncountable noun when we refer to the brain of an animal eaten as food.

You can say I eat brain/brains.

If you want to say that you eat a small amount of brain, you can say "I eat some brain" just as you say I eat some fish, I eat a lot of meat but some vegetables, etc.

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While I don't think "Eat some brain" is strictly incorrect, the plural form (brains) is the more common single word mass noun for brain matter. cf. wiktionary and the uses in "the brains of the operation" and "brain, v.t.: To dash out the brains of." Ngrams supports the plural as more common also for "eat brains".

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Yes, it's grammatically correct, especially when zombies say it. In English, you often have a choice between whether to treat a noun as a count noun or a mass noun, and the choice conveys a subtle shade of meaning.

Count nouns and mass nouns

With a count noun, an indefinite article normally* introduces the singular form, and some goes with the plural, like this:

I bought a desk today.

I bought some desks today.

A mass noun normally* appears in the singular, without an article, and some goes with the singular like this:

You must drink water in order to live.

I drank some water half an hour ago.

Count nouns usually refer to things that naturally come in separate, discrete instances, which you can count: one desk, two desks, three desks, etc. Mass nouns usually refer to things that exist in continuous quantities, which are not susceptible to counting, like water, mass, air, space, continuous action, etc. If you think of count nouns as names for objects and mass nouns as names for liquids or materials, then you understand the central distinction. As you will see in a moment, though, the central distinction between count nouns and mass nouns can be reversed for deliberate effect.

The meaning of the choice

The fact that a word is normally a count noun doesn't mean you can't use it as a mass noun. If you treat a count noun grammatically as a mass noun, this means that you are thinking of it as something that exists in continuous quantity rather than in distinct, separate objects. By treating it as the mass noun, you convey this way of thinking about it to your listener.

For example, we normally think of brains as separate objects, so "brain" is normally a count noun:

George studies brains at the university, and he has a brain of his own, too.

But zombies (presumably) think of brains not as separate objects, but more like ground meat:

I couldn’t find a picture of ground brain

Notice that meat is a mass noun:

Vegetarians don't eat meat.

Would you like some meat on your sandwich?

It's not unusual in English for words for food to be used as both count nouns and mass nouns:

I ate a banana for breakfast. [count noun]

If you add some banana to that dough, it will taste even better. [mass noun]

We sold twelve cakes. [count noun]

We're serving cake and ice cream. [mass noun]

The choice depends on whether you are thinking of the food as discrete objects or as a material.

So, when the zombies say "Let's eat some brain!", they're really using the grammatical resources of English in the most exact and expressive way—expressing how they think about brain(s).


*I say "normally" here because, as usual with English, there are variations that convey other differences of meaning, so don't take the "normal" usage as a rule. For example, count nouns can be preceded by other determiners, like each, as in "each desk". You can use an article with a mass noun, as in "a water", but then you mean "a type of water". It's usually easier to master the main, "normal" uses before you learn the variations. This whole answer is about one of those variations: using a count noun as a mass noun.

The photo comes from warosu.

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  • Akkk, that meat looks like raw brain. – user6951 Jun 12 '15 at 8:44
  • @pazzo That's how zombies like it. – Ben Kovitz Jun 12 '15 at 12:55
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Zombies would say something like this, though, because they are typically not very smart. They would just say "Brains!"

I would say, "Let's eat some brains" to keep the tense/plural usage correct between 'some' and 'brains'. Or "Let's eat a brain." if it were a singular brain I wished to consume.

By the way, from your context, I assumed human brains were the subject here and that this was for some fantasy writing. If this were an actual animal's brain that you wished to eat, you should specify it to make it clear.


Edit

As J.R. has just pointed out, "let's eat some brain" could mean eating brain as a general entity, not as an individual item, like I had originally interpreted when I read you statement. Given this, your phrase is correct, but I am not 100% sure if this is the meaning you were attempting to give. Plus, as I have just demonstrated, it is a bit ambiguous as is.

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    I don't agree that singular "brain" necessarily implies a single brain. Consider: "Let's eat some lamb. Let's have some bread with it." It's trickier than you've answered here. – J.R. Jun 11 '15 at 20:44
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    You are correct - is that particular usage is making 'lamb' a label for a plural entity? Tricky indeed. Lambs sound wrong and I'm not enough of a grammar person to quite say why. Actually, thinking about it from that perspective, it could be grammatical - eat brain as a group, not as an individual entity. Nice catch. – Michael Dorgan Jun 11 '15 at 20:49
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J.R's answer is good. My two cents on that...

We often say, 'Use some brain'. This means use some part or little portion of it, have some common sense.

I think the zombies may mean that they want to eat 'some part' or a 'little part' of brain?


btw, is it in the context of zombies? If not, I wonder what it is.

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