Diner vs. Dinner – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 17, 2017/ Uncategorized

diner versus dinner

What’s the Difference Between Diner and Dinner?

Diner and dinner both have to do with eating. We know this because they are derivations of the verb dine.

Despite their similar subject matter, they have different meanings and pronunciations. Therefore, they cannot be interchanged either in speech or in writing.

Diner is a noun that can refer to a person who eats, a train car on which to eat, or an informal restaurant with inexpensive food. This last meaning is most common in North America.

  • The family wanted an omelet with sausage, as well as pancakes, so they went to a diner.

Dinner is a noun that refers to the largest meal of the day. In modern contexts, this is usually the third meal of the day, coming after breakfast and lunch.

  • He wasn’t hungry for dinner at 5PM, but he thought he’d be hungry by 7PM.

Although these two words have completely different meanings, people still confuse them often because of their similarities.

Let’s look at how to use these words in context and avoiding mixing the two up.

Using Diner in a Sentence

When to use diner: Diner is always a noun. The first meaning is a person who dines. The second meaning is a train car that serves food. The third meaning is common only in North America, and developed out of the second meaning. This final meaning is an informal restaurant, often modeled after the style of train diners.

For example:

  • The diner slurped his soup and smacked his lips as he ate his spaghetti. (first meaning)
  • The woman woke up in one of the train’s sleeper cars and decided to make her way towards the diner to eat breakfast. (second meaning)
  • Despite not being fancy, diners are a popular place to go for breakfast foods or foods like hamburgers and french fries. (third meaning)

There aren’t any notable idioms that use the word diner. Ironically, restaurant diners themselves use many idioms. For example, greasy spoon is slang for diner. Within the kitchen, a cook might say Adam and Eve on a log to mean two poached eggs and a sausage link.

Using Dinner in a Sentence

When to use dinner: Dinner is a noun that means the main meal of the day.

For example:

  • He didn’t care about eating healthy foods, so he ate fast food for dinner almost every night.
  • Most wedding receptions offer guests two choices of what to eat for dinner.

There are also some common expressions that use dinner.

For example:

  • dinner is served: dinner is ready
    • Kids, come downstairs to the table. Dinner is served.
  • TV dinner: frozen meals that a person can easily microwave to prepare
    • I’m sick of my parents always buying TV dinners. I want a home-cooked meal once in awhile.
  • dinner and a movie: a common combination for a romantic date
    • My date with Robert went well. It wasn’t anything special, just dinner and a movie, but we still had a chance to get to know each other better.
  • dog’s dinner: a mess or failure
    • My office looks like a dog’s dinner. It’s so disorganized!

The last expression is more common in the United Kingdom and Australia than it is in America.

Remembering Diner vs. Dinner

Many people get confused as to which spelling is correct when sounding the word out in their head. Therefore, try to remember this mnemonic device.

The word diner is simply dine with er on the end. Many names of people are the verb + er, such as teacher, builder, and farmer. Likewise, a diner is a person who dines.

Additionally, dinner has a double n in the middle of the word. Supper is a synonym of dinner, which also has a double consonant. Dessert is the last part of dinner, and it also has two consonants. Remembering that these three related words all have a double consonant can help you choose the correct spelling.

Outside Examples

  • Keady says he always wondered why Purdue coaches didn’t have their own sandwiches at the diner. –USA Today
  • Director Stella Meghie sets the text conversations between Maddy and Olly in the diners and libraries she designs, which brings a visual intimacy to their budding connection and a quirky sense of humor and style to what could be rather maudlin and staid proceedings. –Chicago Tribune
  • Booker then asked her to dinner in Newark. –New York Daily News
  • Gently but with increasing purpose, she seizes hold of the dinner conversation and steers it in an unsettling new direction. –LA Times

Quiz: Dinner vs. Diner

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either dinner or diner.

  1. What time do you want to eat _______________ tonight?
  2. My favorite ____________ is on Main Street. The waitresses there are all so friendly.
  3. For ______________ they had a simple meal of meat and potatoes.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use diner or dinner? Despite having a similar pronunciation and both being related to foods, these words are different and cannot be mixed up.

  • Diner can refer to a person who eats, the restaurant area of a train, or an informal, inexpensive restaurant.
  • Dinner is the main meal of the day.

In short, dinner consists of food, and diner can be a person or place with food.


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