ATGV: Defining fruits (and many other things)

I received the following email late last night and thought that it would make a great discussion:

Kate: Could you please enlighten us language teachers about the following sentences- which is/ are correct usage? And why?
1. My favorite fruit is apples.
2. My favorite fruit is an apple
3. My favorite fruit is the apple.
4. My favorite fruit is apple.
I tend to think 1, 3 and 4 are correct. What do you think?
Thanks for your help,
E Trottier

What a great question!  Ordinarily, I would go to look it up in my books and online, but I have no idea even where to start.

If you’ve read the Globe feature on me, you know that I mostly go by instinct.  In this situation, I think that 1 and 3 are correct.  The second option would be correct if you were referring to your one favorite piece of fruit in the world.  (My favorite fruit is an apple that came from a farm in the Berkshires, and it had a red and green swirl on it that kind of looked like Drew Carey when you squinted really hard at it.)

What do you think?



8 responses to “ATGV: Defining fruits (and many other things)

  1. 1 & 3 are correct. You could also say “My favorite fruit are apples.”

    Why go by instinct when you can so easily do the research to back yourself up? All you have to do is Google “my favorite fruit is apple” and you can find something like this.

  2. I think #3 is correct. If we are to use #1, with apples (plural), should it be my favorite fruits are apples? “Is apples” is incorrect, since it refers to a particular group rather than an individual apple.

    The argument falls apart, however, when we say: My favorite sport is baseball. If that is the comparison, “the” isn’t used and shouldn’t be used with the apple sentence, but My favorite fruit is apples just isn’t right, is it?

    Perhaps there are two right answers, but I would use #3.

    Now my head hurts.
    My favorite pain medication is Tylenol.

  3. i think, in this case. that the wording is just awkward, and it is necessary to rearrange the sentence to alleviate the awkwardness:
    Apples are my favorite fruit.

  4. Thank you for the link, letterbug — that’s great information.

    I think that one of the problems is that “fruit” works as both the singular and plural forms.

  5. I would turn it around and say “Apples are my favorite fruit.”

  6. “fruit” can be both a count and noncount noun.

  7. Is fruit truly plural and singular?

    As I read the Merriam-Webster definition of fruit, it continues to use “fruit” as referring to one or many of the same product from a source of vegetation, as in “fruit of the tree.” “Fruits” is used in reference to a variety of products from various sources, as in “fruits of the field.”

    Which leads me to believe that “My favorite fruit are apples” is correct, maybe technically. But maybe not, since “fruit” as a plural still only references one sort of fruit.

    Or maybe I’m making assumptions that I should not or cannot make?

  8. Hi, just giving my opinion on the matter:

    3 is preferred, however
    2 is acceptable in certain circumstances, e.g., “My favourite fruit is (in this particular circumstance) an apple”

    I disagree with 4 because “apple” without an article makes it seem like an adjective, as in “My favourite jacket is brown”. Replace “apple” with orange in the original and I think you’ll see more clearly what I mean.

    1 is tricky, because, as furpurrson says, the inverted form seems correct – “Apples are my favourite fruit”. However, I think this is, linguistically speaking, akin to saying “Apples are in the category(my favourite fruit)”. In the non-inverted (original) form, fruit cannot be used as a plural; without the all-important ‘s’ at the end, the word ‘fruit’ here means “some fruit” (to be used like “some cheese”). In order to convey the plural, one would have to say “My favourite fruits are…” but one would have to follow that with two different kinds of fruits, e.g. “My favourite fruits are apples and oranges”.

    I hope this sheds some light on a very confusing subject.

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