I've heard people use them interchangeably.
Just so I don't go crazy, what is the difference?


Cane sugar comes from sugarcane. Sugarcane is the crop, cane sugar is the refined grains of sugar.

Edit: you also get other things from sugarcane, such as falernum, molasses, rum, cachaça, bagasse and ethanol.

There are photos of the crop are on Wikipedia.


When you have two nouns together, usually the second is the basic meaning, and the first one acts like an adjective to modify it. An apple tree is a kind of tree. A tree house is a kind of house.

So sugar cane is a kind of cane. (It’s a cane from which sugar is produced.) Cane sugar is a kind of sugar. (It’s sugar that’s produced from cane.)

  • 1
    Any explanation for the downvote, by the way? I’m not offended by getting them, but it would be helpful to know why. – PLL May 25 '11 at 22:41
  • You're offended, obviously. – user8568 May 25 '11 at 22:45
  • +1 The answer looks obvious because the question is simple. For a native speaker that is. – Alain Pannetier Φ May 26 '11 at 0:10
  • 3
    Downvoting an answer should always be accompanied by an explanatory comment, I feel. If we have to ask for an explanation, what does that really say about communication in this community? How else will the author of the downvoted answer hAve a chance to learn about what aspect of the answer was perceived as not suitable/wrong/not welcome. – teylyn May 26 '11 at 9:11
  • +1 for not just answering, but giving the general principle that explains why it's so. – Mechanical snail Jul 11 '12 at 19:15

Cane sugar is a type of sugar, sugar cane is a type of cane. The difference is which is the noun and which is the adjective.

Cane sugar is a type of sugar derived from a particular cane plant.

Sugar cane is a type of cane plant that can be used to make sugar.

For our next question we want to know, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

  • snap! Almost identical answers, almost identical timing :-) – PLL May 25 '11 at 22:17

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