Commonly confused words: concrete and cement

I think it reveals something about the background of many Australian writers and probably also their editors and publishers that they do not know the difference between concrete and cement.

When I was a child, I often said things like ‘The floor was made of cement’. My father used to sigh at such statements, and say, slowly, ‘Cement is a grey powder. You mix it with sand, water and aggregate to make concrete.’ (Aggregate is a term for the little stones that are  . . . err, mixed with sand, water and cement to form concrete!)

Now you know: cement is a powder, and just one of the ingredients of the final product (concrete).


. . . and concrete

We also use both cement and concrete as verbs: to cement something means to glue or stick it to something else. This meaning goes back to my father’s definition, as cement is the glue in the mix that forms concrete (note: if you mix cement, sand and water, you will make mortar, which is used to cement bricks or other types of building materials together). To concrete something in or to set something in concrete means to make something set firmly or hard. I must concrete these differences into my brain.

As for those trucks you might be calling ‘cement mixers’? Sorry but that’s wrong too: they are concrete agitators (or you can probably call them concrete mixers or concrete pumpers, since my dad won’t hear you).

A concrete agitator or concrete pump truck

If you have found this post interesting, you can find a full index to my other posts on the index page. To be notified when I post a new topic, follow me on Facebook! If you have any particular questions you’d like me to answer in future posts, just  send me a message I’m always interested to learn what people think, and how you came across this site, so please post a comment.

If you think you would be interested in either my complete grammar course or an individual customised online course (particularly suited for people who don’t live in Melbourne), just click your preferred option.

Images: my own image of my family; open cement bag by Szlomo Lejb on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence; concrete structure by Tanner Vote on Unsplash; concrete agitator truck by Kgbo on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence
In memory of T. K. Keogh, 7 October 1929 – 16 August 2011

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *