Hello~

I wonder if the  subject and verb agreement rule can be applied in both (a) and (b) to represent the abstract thing, making any distinction of count and non count nouns.

a) The next thing on the list is cheese.

b) The next thing on the list is egg.

Thank you.

Original Post

Hi, Jiho,

(a) and (b) could form part of a list of ingredients for a recipe. In any case, I find it hard to imagine the use of "egg" in the singular. The only case that comes to mind where "egg" might be in the singular form is that in which we refer to the word "egg" (metalinguistic use of the word). Otherwise, in the absence of articles (an egg) or numbers (one egg), we will tend to use count nouns in the plural:

a') The first thing on the list is cheese.

b') The next thing on the list is eggs.

Gustavo, Contributor posted:
In any case, I find it hard to imagine the use of "egg" in the singular. The only case that comes to mind where "egg" might be in the singular form is that in which we refer to the word "egg" (metalinguistic use of the word).

I agree with you, Gustavo, that we generally use "egg" as a count noun, and that "eggs" (plural) is probably a better choice for Jiho in (b). As a vegetarian who doesn't eat eggs, or who tries his best not to, I am accustomed to using "egg," occasionally, as a noncount noun.

Thus, if I am placing an order for food at a restaurant I have never eaten at before, I will often ask whether a particular dish is made with eggs (count noun), but occasionally I will ask, instead, whether it contains any egg (noncount noun). I can't recall having ever thought about the grammar of it before.

Jiho's use of "egg" as a noncount noun in (b) -- "The next thing on the list is egg" -- brings to my mind liquified eggs, which pour out as a single fluid. If I'm not mistaken, the fluid formed from liquified eggs is sold in cartons in many grocery stores. If I put that stuff on my shopping list, I might refer to it as "egg."

Sorry for this late response.  I'm trying to catch up after a prolonged absence from the forum.

I find this subject somewhat amusing.  With the exception of David's example of "liquified eggs", which I've never actually seen for sale, but am sure they exist somewhere, I can't imagine "egg" as a non-count noun on a list.  If it's a shopping list, you buy "eggs", presumably by the dozen.  If it's a recipe, the quantity is going to be more specific.  It could be "one egg", but, as Gustavo says, it wouldn't just be "egg".

I like David's example of asking whether a dish "contains any egg (noncount noun)".  "Egg" is also used as a non-count noun in the expression "to have egg on one's face", a figurative expression for being embarrassed.

Some years ago, I had a Chinese girlfriend, and while she spoke English well enough to get around, there were a few gaps in her knowledge.  One day, when she was cooking dinner for us at my house, she asked me if I had "egger".  I answered that, yes, I had eggs.  Needless to say, she had egger on her face.

To get back to the ostensible subject of the thread, though, which, as near as I can tell, has not yet been directly addressed, the simple subject of Jiho's examples (a) and (b) is the singular "thing", which requires the singular verb "is".  The same is true of Gustavo's examples (a') and (b').  Even though the predicate noun in (b') is the plural "eggs", the subject of the sentence is still singular, and requires a singular verb.

DocV

 

Doc V posted:
With the exception of David's example of "liquified eggs", which I've never actually seen for sale, but am sure they exist somewhere, I can't imagine "egg" as a non-count noun on a list

Thanks for your insightful reply, DocV. This is what I had in mind by liquid eggs. I'm sure you've seen this type of item in supermarkets in the U.S. I believe it's a standard item for grocery stores to carry, though I myself have never bought it.

liquid eggs 3liquid eggs 5liquid eggs 6

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Interesting.  I'm sure you're right, David, that these are standard grocery items, and that I have seen them, but I've never noticed them, to the best of my recollection.  This is probably because I wasn't looking for them.  I'm not adverse to eggs, but the idea of bottled liquid egg(s) doesn't appeal to me.  The same is true of powdered egg(s), which, I understand, was standard breakfast fare when my father was in the army.

DocV

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