Watching Cartoons vs Watching Cartoon

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In a comment I said:

Yeah, I was looking for this (about "you just wait and see!"); I hear it a lot while watching cartoons with the kids!

I wasn't confident of (on?) which one sounds natural, until checking with Google ngram (watching cartoon,watching cartoons,cartoon,cartoons). Am I right in choosing "Watching Cartoons" which shows up 20 times as much compared to "watching cartoon"?

By the way, in the context above, is it confident of or on. With Google ngram, on is barely noticeable, and of is almost all there is.

Note: You may want to take out cartoon and cartoons for the other curves to be clearly visible.

learner

Posted 2014-01-15T07:16:11.040

Reputation: 6 070

3I looked into some examples the Google Ngram gave, and found that all the "watching cartoon" results I checked out are not a valid "watching cartoon". For example, ""All your little friends were watching cartoon shows ...", "... watching cartoon turtles on TV doing ...", "... that children watching cartoon shows for a four-hour period ...". This confirmed my thought that "watching cartoon" is not a valid usage, because "cartoon" is countable (watching a cartoon or watching cartoons, but not watching cartoon), and "watch cartoon" hasn't become a phrase as "declare war" did, yet. – Damkerng T. – 2014-01-15T10:02:42.350

2By the way, I think it's more likely to say be confident about (some idea) or be confident in (someone); be confident of is also possible, be confident on is less likely. – Damkerng T. – 2014-01-15T10:14:59.230

Then I misled by a comment in Yahoo answers I think; one if I recall correctly that cartoon is a general name or something like this. Maybe I'm mistaken into thinking it like the word fruit, or coffee. I've just check Cambridge's and found out that it is countable and there is no uncountable version. In the quotes you gave it functions as an adjective. – learner – 2014-01-15T10:15:09.687

I have had time to watch and practice the videos I downloaded about using advanced tools of COCA. So I resorted to using the advanced learner's dictionaries like Cambridge's but it's skimpy when it comes to giving extra different examples. – learner – 2014-01-15T10:20:52.303

Don't worry or feel bad in any way. It's good that you pointed it out, so all of us can learn too (especially me :-). Using prepositions correctly at all time is very difficult. I'm sure that I can use them correctly only at about 60-80% of time at best (which is why I usually added my "I think" or "I believe" tag :-). – Damkerng T. – 2014-01-15T10:25:59.540

1I thought of "about", but because I couldn't find an example to confirm, I avoided using it and wrote "of" instead. Either I would be crazy or I'll reach a near native speaker like level if I continue this crazy trend! ... Yeah, likewise with "I believe tag"! – learner – 2014-01-15T10:30:02.447

@DamkerngT Why not write an answer instead of a comment? You're right that people don't *watch cartoon. – snailplane – 2014-01-15T11:34:56.350

2@learner I suggest you ask the preposition question separately. One question per question, please. – snailplane – 2014-01-15T11:38:40.710

1@learner: Take note of snailpoint's comment. In your context, I think *confident about* is more appropriate (because there are multiple options you can't confidently choose between). If you had committed to a particular one, you might be more likely to say you were *confident of* or *with* that choice. There are several possible prepositions after confident - some make a difference, some are arbitrary stylistic choices. Too much to cover in a comment, even if I knew it all (which I don't, anyway! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-01-17T06:05:51.037

Answers

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I think your usage, "I hear it a lot while watching cartoons ...", is correct. The word cartoon is a countable noun. A singular countable noun will need an article (i.e. a cartoon or the cartoon) or a determiner (e.g. that cartoon). Thus, we can say watching a cartoon or watching cartoons, but not *watching cartoon.

However, your observation made me wonder if "watch cartoon" had become a phrase (as "declare war" did) already.

So I looked into some of the examples returned by Google Ngram, and found that all the "watching cartoon" results (as far as I reviewed) are not a complete verb-ing+noun phrase. For example, All your little friends were watching cartoon shows ..., ... watching cartoon turtles on TV doing ..., ... that children watching cartoon shows for a four-hour period .... In all results, cartoon was used as an adjective.

With that, I think I can conclude that saying *watching cartoon is incorrect.

Damkerng T.

Posted 2014-01-15T07:16:11.040

Reputation: 27 649

1As a native speaker, I don't have to research or "conclude" on this one! But of course you're quite right. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-01-17T05:50:48.410

1That's why second language learners do research when they come across a problem, but they can imitate first language "learners" by "researching all the time" before the problems come up; =imitate how children learn. – learner – 2014-01-17T08:35:10.443