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Is there a difference between "sugar cane" and sugarcane? Is sugarcane wrong? What is the gramatical rule for joining two names like that?

I have found 13.500 entries on google for sugarcane, but 16.000 for sugar cane.

Is that a matter of style or grammar? What do you guys think?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Drew, tchrist, Chenmunka, Misti Jan 30 '15 at 16:30

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  • have you looked at the pages with hits for each, to see if they're used differently? – Barmar Jan 29 '15 at 16:24
  • the OED sites sugar cane. Webster's 9th New Collegiate sites sugarcane with the same definition. It seems there is favor on both forms. – ScotM Jan 29 '15 at 16:33
  • That's exactly what I think: both versions are correct. There seems to be no standard even in news websites... – Marina Guimarães Jan 29 '15 at 16:47
  • Scans are going to be hard to interpret, since, eg, one might talk of a "sugar cane crop" but of "sugarcane syrup". – Hot Licks Jan 29 '15 at 17:07
  • Answered in general terms at What's the most preferred spelling of auto fill, auto-fill, and autofill? [Jon Hanna's answer]; specific example general reference. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 29 '15 at 17:41

Both forms are widely used, though the closed form has been more popular recently, more so in American English:

Google NGram showing relative popularity of "sugarcane" and "sugar cane"

The phenomenon of open compounds becoming closed has been covered in several previous questions, starting with Why are some words combined into a single word while others stay as two words?

  • 1
    That's a really neat chart. – Greg Lee Jan 29 '15 at 20:30

There is no grammatical difference -- it has nothing to do with grammar. It's simply an arbitrary spelling convention. Sugarcane is a compound noun, and these are spelled with a space dividing the parts, or a hyphen, or no character at all. Sometimes one variant becomes more commonly used, but who cares?

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