Translation:The cafeteria food is not good.
Disclaimer: I am totally new to Mandarin, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. That out of the way, for me, the use of 东西 in this sentence feels odd. I suppose we're intended to infer that it means "food" based on the context of the sentence, but since 东西 literally translates to "thing" or "stuff" we could assume it means "bread" or "fruit" and still fit within the context of the sentence. To those of you with more Mandarin chops than I, my question is this: Is this vague way of speaking indicative of how natives actually communicate, or is this sentence just plain weird?
Combining 东西 with 吃 makes it clear its food. By this point you should have learnt 吃的东西 is food. Just like in the English sentence "there is nothing good to eat in the canteen." the word nothing here implies food, so in our Chinese sentence 东西 implies food, and yes it's how Chinese people speak.
This should really accept "stuff" as well as the less literal but more logical "food". Just as in the Chinese context of 食堂 and 吃 providing the context for 东西 to mean food, having the context of "cafeteria" and "eat" makes it clear that "stuff" would also mean food.
One of many such possibilities:
- The stuff in the cafeteria is not good to eat.
It's an uncounted noun, these are treated like singular form nouns no matter the quantity. "The water is hot" "The food is not good" "The butter has melted" Etc. NOT "the water are hot" "the food are not good" "the butter have melted".
In those rare cases where true plural forms are used to emphasise different categories of an uncounted noun then they work just like a plural normally would but these forms are only for the purpose of drawing attention to the differentiation between the items included in the plural. E.g. "the waters of the tropics are warm." "foods from the red and yellow lists are not permitted." "Having tried butters from all over the world, I recommend Irish butter."