Cereal vs. Serial

What is the difference?

The words cereal and serial are two words in English that can often be difficult to know when to use. The words sound the same, and are spelled similarly, so it can be tricky to know when to use each one. So how do you know?

Although they seem so alike, cereal and serial have completely different meanings. Cereal is a noun and always refers to a kind of food. Serial, while it can be a noun, is most often an adjective, and means that things are in a certain order, like in a list, or that something repeats, and usually at specific times.

To help you understand each word better, let’s take a look at some definitions and examples!

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses


The word cereal does not have that many meanings. It is always used as a noun and refers to food made from grains, like corn or wheat, or the grains themselves.

Cereal can refer to starchy grains like corn and wheat themselves. Both are known as "cereal grains."

Cereal grain

The word cereal can also refer to many other types of plants, usually grasses, which are used to make food.

Grass grains

The word cereal can also mean the food that is produced from those grains. These foods are usually called breakfast cereals. Oatmeal and cornflakes are examples of breakfast cereals. The sugary breakfast foods marketed to children are also a popular example of cereal.

Breakfast cereal


  1. Every morning I eat cereal with milk for breakfast. (Every morning I eat a food product made from grains, like wheat or corn, for breakfast).

    Cereal with milk
  2. The farmer grows mostly cereal grains like barley and rye. (The farmer grows mostly grasses that produce a grain which can be made into food products, like barley and rye).



The word serial can also be a noun. When it is, it refers to something like a book or television show or other publication that is produced in parts, or one at a time, over a period of time. Each episode is a part of the whole "series."

Television serial

Usually serial is used as an adjective.

The most common definition of serial is something that repeats, usually at specific times. The television show that is "a serial," can also be described as being serial, because it is recurring, or happens repeatedly. Serially, which is an adverb, can also be used to mean this.

Serial also describes things as being in a certain order, or certain place in a list or group of other things. A "serial number" is meant to identify what order something is in within a larger series.

Serial numbers

Serial can also mean in relation to a series of similar actions. This definition is often used when talking about criminals, like serial killers, who commit the same type of crime many times.

Serial killer


  1. He is writing a serial novel that will have three sequels. (He is writing a novel that is the first installment of four).

    Writing a novel
  2. I was scared when I heard about the serial burglar in my neighborhood. (I was scared when I heard about the burglar who repeatedly committed the same crime in my neighborhood).

  3. I like television better than movies because the shows are produced serially, so I can watch them every week. (I like television better than movies because there are many parts rather than just one).

    Watching TV
  4. She writes a serial number on all of her papers to make them easy to organize. (She writes a number on each of her papers telling her what order they go in, so they are easy to organize).



To help yourself remember the difference between cereal and serial, just remember that serial means that something repeats or has a certain place in a list of things, while cereal is always a kind of food, and usually for breakfast, like Cheerios. Cheerios are a breakfast food that start with "c" just like cereal. Or you can think of your own favorite food that starts with "c" to help you remember the difference!

Cereal like Cheerios

A Story to Practice Cereal vs. Serial

Casey gets up and goes to the kitchen to eat breakfast. She decides to have some cereal because it is her favorite. She pours a bowl of corn flakes with milk. As she eats, Casey watches the news and sees that the police just caught a serial killer. She changes the channel to watch her favorite serial drama. There is a new episode every week at the same time and she never misses one. She is a serial watcher.

Casey goes to work. She is a farmer of wheat and other cereals. When she gets to work, she finds out that her tractor is broken. Casey writes down the tractor’s serial number and types it into her computer to see how to fix that specific type of tractor. She fixes it and starts to serially cut all the rows of wheat, one after the other, until she cuts the entire field. She is going to sell all of the cereal to a factory that makes the breakfast cerealshe likes to eat in the morning. She has eaten the same cereal every day for twenty years, so you could say she is also a serial cereal eater!

Eating breakfast


Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.

Part 1:

  1. Which of the following is a correct definition of cereal?
    1. A type of food usually eaten for dinner
    2. Something that happens repeatedly
    3. A type of food usually eaten for breakfast
    4. To do something only once

  2. Which of the following is a correct definition of serial?
    1. Something that happens at random times
    2. A type of food plant grown on farms
    3. To be disorganized
    4. To repeat

  3. Which sentence is written correctly?
    1. I ate serial for breakfast this morning.
    2. My dad is a cereal farmer.
    3. Each new product is given a cereal number to identify it.
    4. He was sent to jail for cereal arson.

  4. Which of the following is written incorrectly?
    1. I need to remember to buy more serial at the store today.
    2. My parents are serially happy with my grades from school.
    3. Scientists think that barley is one of the first cereals grown by humans.
    4. The author could not think of a title for his new serial.

Part 2:

  1. There is a _____________ number on every dollar bill.
    1. cereal
    2. serial
    3. serially
    4. cereals

  2. There are too many different _____________ to choose from for breakfast, so I will have eggs instead.
    1. serial
    2. cereals
    3. serially
    4. serials

  3. I am happy to spend the day _____________ watching episodes of my favorite TV show.
    1. serially
    2. serial
    3. serials
    4. cereal

  4. The police say there is a _____________ car thief in town, so I will park in the garage.
    1. cereal
    2. cereals
    3. serial
    4. serially

  5. Corn is the most widely grown _____________ in the United States.
    1. serial
    2. seriels
    3. cereal
    4. cereals

  6. She is writing several different _____________ all at once.
    1. cereals
    2. serially
    3. serial
    4. serials

Answer Key

Part 1: 1. C | 2.D | 3.B | 4. A

Part 2: 1. B | 2.B | 3.A | 4.C | 5.C | 6. D

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