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Should the term ice cream, in the sentence below, be countable or uncountable?

The bowl consists of mini scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

The bowl consists of mini scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice creams.

What if I were to delete mini scoops from the sentence? Would that change anything?

The bowl consists of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice creams OR ice cream

Which is correct?

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    Definitely "ice cream" but I can't formally explain why at the moment... – Max Williams Jun 9 '16 at 10:23
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    As a Brit, I would use "ice cream" - but this may differ between different English-speaking countries. (comment precedes amendment to Q.!) – TrevorD Jun 9 '16 at 10:41
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    Definitely ice cream, you have the expression "mini scoops" which is numerable. "There are [four] mini scoops of ice cream" – Mari-Lou A Jun 9 '16 at 10:41
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    Your first example with non-count "ice cream" is correct, since it's talking about "ice cream" as a product, not individual ice cream cornets or wafers or whatever. – BillJ Jun 9 '16 at 10:47
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    @NVZ At an ice cream parlour, you can order three ice creams (because they come in cones, glasses or tubs), in other words you order individual servings. I suppose you could "collect ice creams from different parts of the world", but it would be a little odd. But if you said: "There are three ice creams I like in particular: chocolate, pistachio and vaniglia" that would be fine. – Mari-Lou A Jun 9 '16 at 11:05
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"Scoops of ice cream" is correct.

In this example, ice cream is not serving as countable thing, it is an uncountable base material out of which something countable is formed.

My bowl has scoops of ice cream.


If you are using ice cream to refer to the individual portions, rather than the material, then they are countable things. Perhaps there are regional variations, but on the west coast of the US, ice creams would be the typical usage.

I am going to get an ice cream. Would you like one?
I would like two strawberry ice creams, one in a cone, and one in a cup.


Note related to discussion in the comments of the original post:

"I collect ice creams from around the world" is fine - apart from the logistics involved in pursuing the hobby. Here I would assume that the speaker collects samples of different varieties of ice cream.

If I hear "I collect ice cream from around the world" it sounds like the speaker is amassing ice cream indiscriminately (as much total ice cream as possible) rather than procuring a sampling of the worlds best flavors (as many total ice creams as possible.)

  • I think The bowl consists of mini scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice creams might be preferable under the oddball case where, say, each flavor was a different brand, and you wanted to accentuate that fact. But you've explained the general case quite well. – J.R. Jun 9 '16 at 21:45
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Conversationally? Ice cream would sound better.

Grammatically speaking, however, I think this implies that the chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice creams are all, in fact, one ice cream. Ice creams clarifies that you took a mini scoop of chocolate ice cream from one container, then one of strawberry from another container, and one of vanilla from a third.

I think the result is pretty much the same for if you omit "mini scoops." The plural "ice creams" just clarifies that there is more than one type, and it's not just those three flavors somehow combined into one ice cream.

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