Dessert and desert are often confused but forgetting to add in that extra ‘s’ completely changes the meaning of the word. You could find yourself with a pile of sand when you wanted a pudding!
Fortunately, at Make Your Copy Count, we have a few tricks and tips to help you handle homophones like desert and dessert. Homophones are words that sound similar but have different meanings and spellings such as, stationery and stationary, bear and bare, or patients and patience.
In this post, we’re looking at ‘desert’ and ‘dessert’ and explaining how to remember which one to use.
Although there are many types of dessert, there aren’t many definitions of the word. A dessert is a sweet dish that you eat, usually at the end of a meal. In the UK, it is often referred to as pudding. You can also get dessert sauces and dessert wines to go with your dessert. Yum, yum, yum!
Examples of correct use:
Would you like to see the dessert menu?
What’s for dessert?
I ordered the apple crumble for dessert
That was a tasty dessert
We have a lovely dessert wine to go with that
Unlike the word ‘dessert’ which is only used as a noun, the word ‘desert’ can be used as a noun, adjective or verb.
As a noun, the word desert is an area that is arid due to a lack of rainfall or an area where very few lifeforms can exist. Famous deserts include the Sahara and the Gobi. Although often relating to dry land, there are also ocean deserts where there is thought to be no marine life. It is also used to refer to an area that is missing something, for example, a cultural desert.
As an adjective, ‘desert’ is used to describe something that is “like a desert” or something that is present in a desert or suitable for use in the desert; “a desert hat”, “a desert village”, “a desert plant”.
Another definition of the word desert is as a verb to describe the act of abandoning or leaving someone or something.
Desert can also mean a reward or punishment that is deserved. Although this is a lesser used form of the word it is most commonly used as the phrase “they got their just deserts”.
Examples of correct use:
You can’t just desert your post
It was hot in the desert
The sand dunes reminded him of a desert
Camels are a popular means of transport in the desert
He’ll just desert you once he’s got what he wants
I think she got her just deserts, don’t you?
The past tense of ‘desert’ is deserted. For example, “the town was deserted” or “he deserted me when I needed him most”. The present participle is deserting, for example, “are you deserting me?”
How to remember which is which
Although these two words are easy to confuse, there is an easy way to remember which is which.
‘Dessert’ has a double ‘s’ so just remember Sugary Snacks. ‘S’ for sugary and ‘s’ for snacks gives you a double ‘s’ as in dessert
‘Desert’ only has one ‘s’. Think of a desert as being full of sand. ‘Sand’ only has one ‘s’ just like ‘desert’. For the other meaning think of a soldier deserting his post. The soldier only has a single ‘s’ just like ‘desert’.
Hopefully, we’ve made it a bit clearer whether to use dessert or desert but here are a few more examples just in case:
It was as dry as a desert
I can’t resist having a look at the dessert menu
When we arrived, it looked as though it was deserted
Are you deserting your duties?
Can I tempt you to a dessert?