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What is considered the correct usage of mix versus mixture?

As an example, is either of these two sentences considered to be more correct grammatically than the other?

1) The trip was a mix of hiking and climbing

2) The trip was a mixture of hiking and climbing

To my ear either is acceptable, but I presume one is better than the other?

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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The differences between mix and mixture are subtle.

A mix of something is often descriptive of the make-up or components of a mixture:

The castle was built from a mix of sand and water.

A mixture, on the other hand, is the thing that is mixed:

The cake mixture is often a mix of eggs, flour, and oil.

There is a lot of wiggle room in usage and the distinction of when to use one or another is fuzzy. A general rule of thumb is to use mix when naming the individual parts, and mixture to describe the whole.

In the examples you gave, I think both would be acceptable, because you are either talking about a mix of hiking and camping that make up the trip, or the trip's "mixture" of hiking and camping.

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Mix can also be used as a verb: "Mix 1/4 flour, 1 egg, 1/4 cup milk into a small bowl, and then..." –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 1 '11 at 16:06
    
That is true, but in this example he is asking about the noun. –  KitFox Sep 1 '11 at 16:15
    
Great explaination, cheers :-) –  Coops Sep 2 '11 at 8:44
    
There’s also admixture: 1. The action or process of mingling one substance with another, or of adding as an ingredient; the fact of being so mingled. 2. That which is mixed with anything; an alloy, an alien element. –  tchrist Aug 15 '12 at 3:32
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I would say they are completely interchangeable in this case. When used as a noun, mix is a synonym of mixture.

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Mixture can be used to mean:

  • a substance made by mixing other substances together
  • [a mixture of] a combination of different qualities, things, or emotions in which the component elements are individually distinct
  • a person regarded as a combination of qualities and attributes
  • the charge of gas or vapor mixed with air that is admitted to the cylinder of an internal combustion engine

Mix can be used to mean:

  • two or more different qualities, things, or people placed, combined, or considered together
  • a group of people of different types within a particular society or community
  • a commercially prepared mixture of ingredients for making a particular type of food or a product such as concrete
  • an image or sound produced by the combination of two separate images or sounds

In the specific case, either mix or mixture can be used, but they are not perfectly equivalent, as in other cases you use mix, and in other different cases you use mixture.

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Mixture tends to be reserved for physical things, but they are generally interchangeable.

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