Desert vs. Dessert

What is the difference?

Desert and dessert are two commonly confused words in the English language. When do you use each one?

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

These two words have similar spellings, but they are pronounced differently and have different meanings.

We'll look at some examples so that you understand when to use each one.


Desert is a noun that means a large, dry area with few plants. Many deserts are full of sand dunes and have very few animals living in them.

When we pronounce this word, the emphasis is on the first syllable: "DES-ert".

Did you know that deserts cover about one third of the Earth's surface? That's incredible!



  • The Sahara Desert in Africa is one of the biggest in the world.
       - The Sahara is a huge area with very little rain.
  • What survival supplies should you take with you if you are in the desert?

    - What do you need to survive in a place with almost no water or plants?
  • Deserts are hard places to live, but they can be very beautiful.

    - Places with very little rain and lots of sand can have lovely landscapes.
  • Camels are one of the few species specially adapted to live in the desert.
        - Camels are animals that are very good at living in very dry areas.



Dessert is a noun that means the sweet thing you sometimes eat after dinner, like fruit, ice cream, or cake.

When we pronounce this word, the emphasis is on the second syllable: "dess-ERT".

On special occasions, like someone's birthday, everyone can share cake for dessert!


  • It's nice to have dessert sometimes, perhaps for a special occasion.
        - Having something sweet after dinner is lovely from time to time.
  • In many countries, it is common to have fruit or juice for dessert.
        - In some places, people eat sweet fruit after a meal.
  • My kids always want dessert, but we only have it a couple of times a week.
        - The kids always want something sweet after supper!
  • Kip wanted ice cream for dessert, but maybe he ordered too much.
        - That's too much ice cream. He won't be able to finish it!

Ice cream

More Tips

It's important to remember that these words are spelled and pronounced differently.

When you are speaking, remember that the "DES-ert" is a very dry place and "dess-ERT" is a special, sweet treat!

When you are writing, be sure to use just one "s" (desert) when you want to talk about a place where it almost never rains. And, if you want to talk about that delicious treat after lunch or dinner, use two "s" in dessert.

And that's all there is to it!

And that's all there is to it!

These were the differences between desert and dessert. Now that you understand, it's time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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