English Vocabulary: Sweets

English Vocabulary: Sweets

“If eating cake is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

Lorelai Gilmore, a character in television series “Gilmore Girls”

This post is a special treat for those with a sweet tooth. Read it for candy-related vocabulary and more…

Sweets & candy

Sweets (British English) are small sweet things such as toffees, chocolates, and mints (see the slideshow below); a sweet is 1 small sweet thing. In American English, the word candy is used:

I have no more desire to eat sweets.

Don’t eat sweets between meal times.

I can’t eat candy shaped like animals.

On Halloween, kids dress in scary costumes and go door-to-door asking strangers for candy.

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Note that candy is a variable noun, which means it can be both countable and uncountable. Compare:

Do you want a piece of candy? (uncountable noun meaning sweets and other confections (sweet foods) collectively)

I gave her a large box of candies.

A sweet (British English) is something sweet, such as fruit or a pudding, that you eat at the end of a meal, especially in a restaurant. In American English, the word dessert /dɪˈzɜː(r)t/ is used:

The sweet was a mousse /muːs/ flavored with coffee.

The dessert was a mousse flavored with coffee.

Of course, dessert is used in British English too, but sweet is not used in American English to mean something sweet that you eat at the end of a meal.

Biscuit vs. cookie

Confectionery /kənˈfekʃ(ə)n(ə)ri/ (written English) is sweet foods such as sweets and chocolates:

The company’s primary focus is pralines /ˈprɑːliːn,ˈpreɪliːn/, but they also sell marzipan /ˈmɑːzɪpan,ˌmɑːzɪˈpan/, solid chocolates, and other confectionery.

The company operates in four main areas: foodstuffs, confectionery, chocolates and biscuits.

Note that in British English, a biscuit /ˈbɪskɪt/ is a small flat cake that is crisp and usually sweet (= cookie in American English). In North America, a biscuit is typically a soft, leavened quick bread (any bread, as muffins or cornbread, leavened with baking powder, soda, etc. so that it may be baked as soon as the batter or dough /dəʊ/ is mixed).

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Sweet idioms

  1. Tough cookie – someone who is strong enough to deal with difficult or violent situations: 1) She’s a tough cookie. She’ll get through it. 2) You’re one tough cookie, pal.
  2. To have your cake and eat it (disapproval) – to have all the benefits of a situation when, in fact, having one thing means that you cannot have the other: 1) To many it sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it. 2) He wants to stay with his wife but still see his girlfriendtalk about having your cake and eating it!
  3. A piece of cake – something that is very easy: 1) The interview was a piece of cake. 2)  It should be a piece of cake to somebody like you.
  4. The icing/frosting on the cake – an extra good thing that happens and makes a situation or activity even better: 1) The third goal was the icing on the cake. 2) The fact that this technology has such huge commercial and economic potential is just frosting on the cake.
  5. To sell/go like hot cakes – to be sold very quickly or in large quantities: 1) Romantic comedies used to sell like hot cakes. 2) My muffins are going like hot cakes.
  6. Like taking candy from a baby – very easy to do: 1) Taking the money from the safe will be like taking candy from a baby, since I know the combination. 2) If you think that this game will be as easy as taking candy from a baby, you’re seriously underestimating your opponents.
  7. Like a kid in a candy store (= like a child in a sweet shop (British English)) – enjoying yourself far too much and not controlling your behavior in any way: 1) Sam loves football so much that he’s like a kid in a candy store any time he steps into the stadium. 2) There were so many options that I was like a kid in a candy store.
  8. To have a sweet tooth – to like sweets/candy very much: 1) You’ve eaten the whole cake! You must have a very sweet tooth! 2) I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
  9. To sugar/sweeten the pill to make something unpleasant easier to accept: 1) Plans to improve public services are a way of sugaring the pill of increased taxation. 2) The bosses are giving everyone an extra bonus this year, but I suspect it’s a way of sweetening the pill with the massive layoffs that are scheduled.
  10. To give someone some sugar – to give someone a kiss, usually on the cheek: 1) Her daddy tapped himself on the cheek and told his daughter to give him some sugar. 2) Give me some sugar, honey. – Here you go, daddy.

Related: “Food Idioms & Phrasal Verbs

Give me some sugar!


Click the link here and match the pictures to the words.

Click the link here and complete the sentences.

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