“A cold cup of tea” VS “a cup of cold tea”

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A cold cup of tea or a hot cup of coffee sounds incorrect (It doesn't really mean the cup itself is cold or hot), but it can often be heard.

What's your comment about the two expressions?

dennylv

Posted 2015-12-16T05:34:21.487

Reputation: 4 361

What's cold? tea! Where do adjectives generally go? - before nouns they modify. I'd prefer -A cup of cold tea. – Maulik V – 2015-12-16T05:52:14.320

Answers

3

These are equivalent in practice.

If you want to get technical, you are modifying two different nouns in the two sentences.

“A cold cup of tea”

Here, you are talking about the cup. What kind of a cup is it? It's a cold cup.

"A cup of cold tea"

Here, you are talking about the tea. What kind of tea is it? It's cold tea.

So, technically, in the first one, you COULD have a cold cup, but hot tea in the cold cup. And in the second one, you COULD have a warm cup, with cold tea in the cup.

But in practice, the tea and the cup are one thing, so both sentences end up modifying the same object in our minds and so have the same meaning.

Alex K

Posted 2015-12-16T05:34:21.487

Reputation: 4 374

1Good point. ... "A hot thermos of tea." ... No, doesn't work. ... Hmm ... You're right, the cup and the tea are usually the same temperature. Or very nearly so, anyway. – Ricky – 2015-12-16T05:56:19.637

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"A hot cup of tea" is one of those expressions that creep into standard English every now and then, look around, and pitch their tents with much disgusting smugness despite the lukewarm efforts on the part of purists to eradicate them. They normally originate in milieus where speaking the language every which way is the norm.

Iced coffee but ice tea. Go figure.

The important thing is to know where to draw the line.

I have absolutely no problem with ice tea (nor multiple hot cups of the same substance), but "I could care less" annoys the hell out of me, and I'm hardly alone in this.

Ricky

Posted 2015-12-16T05:34:21.487

Reputation: 2 828