These comments don't really explain why this is funky in English. It's called a plurale tantem. Cheese is an already plural noun, like pants. You can't REALLY say, "the boy and the girl find a pants." because the noun needs to be shown to exist as a part of a whole or as an indefinite quantity, hence "some", "a slice of", etc.
You can make it work without attribution (or added adjective), but only through attaching it to other things: "I'm looking for a cheese to pair with a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon."Or "There was a cheese that he had not tried yet." It works with pants too. "I'm looking for a pant that slims my physique."
Ultimately, you can say "a cheese" but most of the time you wouldn't.
Sorry to add clutter, but I know there are other people that are interested in this kind of thing.
I agree, generally.
I probably would say "I'm looking for a pair of pants ...", but this may be a British versus American English distinction (although I'm from Canada - we Canadians started to get too much American television over the years o_o).
I think when we say something like "I'm looking for a cheese to pair with ..." or "There was a cheese that he had not tried yet", we really mean "a kind of cheese" or "a type of cheese". I think that we like to drop words that can be easily implied and inferred by context.
Yeah, I'd normally say "a pair of pants" too. Or even "some pants to go with..." My sister works in fashion, and so she says "a pant" to me on occasion, but I wouldn't say it's common whatsoever.
Context and structure of the target language are important. We like to think of things such as "a water fountain" as two nouns and an article, but in reality "water" describes the fountain and not vice-versa, and so is therefore an adjective. Which, I think, makes a case for the importance of synthetic language structures and declension.
A similar expression is "the student bookstore", where "student" is further defining "bookstore". I'm not sure that makes it exactly an adjective, though. Maybe some sort of adjectival noun?
Anyone care to weigh in on that? I'd be very interested in how such a structure is analyzed linguistically.
In linguistics we usually call them attributive nouns. Adjectival noun also works. This subject is extremely complicated and somewhat unresolved in linguistics. I'm sure there are people still writing papers on it. The words you cited above are definitely nouns, but also have properties of adjectives. Adjectives can also act like nouns (nominal adjectives): "The apple is red." The baseline distinction between nouns and adjectives seems to be whether or not it can take intensifiers (e.g. very, really, too):
The apple is very red.
The very red apple.
The pot is clay.
The clay pot
*The really clay pot
*The pot is too clay.
I think it's worth noting that this is really only a debate in English. The other Germanic languages don't really have this problem because they always (or nearly) combine the words into one, where English only does it sometimes. Your example of bookstore is a case where it is one "word" (syntax shies away from using the term word, and prefers other terms such as morpheme, since word is mostly determined by orthography rather than actual speech). Student bookstore could just as easily be studentbookstore. From a phonological point of view, student and bookstore are probably two different words because of the way they are stressed. But that isn't an area I'm strong in, so I'll leave it at that. (As an aside people think I sound funny when I say Trader Joe's because I stress it like it's one word.)
In English when we can count something individually we use a/an. For example: an apple, a car, an egg, an airplane.
When we can can not count something individually we use helping words like some or we otherwise specify a form of measurement. Some cheese, a piece of cheese, a block of cheese. We usually don't speak naturally in the context of this sentence unless it is only a fragment. Like "The boy and the girl find a cheese" (that goes well with wine).
I have noticed this same problem in the Danish section with ice cream and juice. Anything that can not be counted including liquids and powders unless they are packaged or otherwise separated.
Do you want an ice cream? An Ice cream what? An ice cream sandwich? An ice cream cone? A bowl of ice cream?
This will all get worked out in time. We are still in beta.
I am American. I live in Minnesota. English is my native language (although my native dialect has some quirks -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjr2CexQ5V4 ) It is completely correct. Everyone here says "I'm going out to get an ice cream." Usually that means a cone, but it can also mean a cup. I don't know how it would differ from part to part. I would say "a cheese" if it is a prepackaged cheese, such as a wedge of cheese or something like that.
A type of cheese sounds better, but "a cheese", "one cheese" or "two cheese(s)" are not correct in UK English. You wouldn't say "some cheeses", rather "some varieties of cheese"- cheese like milk, sugar, tea & coffee are nouns described in mass, not number ie, amounts of. Some have been changed more recently, like "a coffee with 2 sugars" (an abbreviation of "a cup of coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar". A couple of centuries ago, people wouldn't have said "a coffee with two sugars".