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Do these two sentences mean the same thing:

My favorite food is cake
My favorite food is cakes

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2 Answers 2

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Cake, like many food items, is both a mass noun and a countable noun, depending on how you use it:

  • I love cake.
  • I bought six cakes.

When you're describing your favorite food, you're talking about the general concept of cake, not a collection of individual cakes. So you'd want to use your first sentence: "My favorite food is cake."

This continues to apply even if you specify the type of cake:

  • I love carrot cake.
  • I bought six birthday cakes.

The general rule is to use the mass noun version when you're talking about the general concept of cake, and use the count noun version when you are talking about a specific cake (the one I bought from the store earlier today).

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  • Uncountable cake's not the 'general concept' but the 'generic material'; similarly, countable cake is not necessarily a specific cake, but just any cakes as discrete objects including cake and its decoration and add'l materials.
    – lly
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:20
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No,

they don't mean the same thing.

My favorite food is cake.

My favorite foodstuff is cake, the kind of sweet fluffy bready uncountable material that cakes are made of.

My favorite food is cakes.

This reads uncomfortably for many people but—ignoring that you should technically rephrase it to something like I like cakes best—it still means something slightly different.

Rather than enjoying cake, the nebulous material itself, what you like are cakes, the countable tangible things made of cake and covered with icing & the rest.

For most foods, the difference between counting them individually or referring to their edible material doesn't amount to much. It's just a question of focus and mental image. For some meats, it can be the difference between talking about the meat (uncountable) and the animals themselves (countable). Here, what's different is that cake technically refers to the main and essential material of cakes: the light, sweet bread itself. Cakes, however, also usually include a lot of extra goodies around the cake: icing, frosting, sprinkles, ice-cream filling, &c.

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