What's the difference between:

I have toast with jam for breakfast


I have toast and jam for breakfast.

Can they mean the same? Can the second sentence mean that all the ingredients are eaten together or is it done separately?


Most native speakers would probably say that “toast and jam” is idiomatic for “toast with jam,” and either of these expressions would mean "toast with jam spread on top of the toast.”

Interestingly enough, even if you ate the toast dry and ate two spoonfuls of jam afterward, you could still say either one and be semantically correct.

Whether or not the listener assumes the two items in question are “eaten together or separately” depends on what the two items are. For example, if I say:

I have coffee and orange juice for breakfast.

most people would assume those are consumed separately and individually, whereas in the case of:

I have milk and cereal for breakfast.

most people would assume that the milk is poured on top of the cereal, because that’s how those are items are typically consumed.

When it comes to food and drink, I don’t think there’s any way to tell if with or and mean “mixed together” or “side by side” outside of context and tradition. One could argue that gin with tonic is more accurate than gin and tonic, but that would be ignoring convention, and trying to limit the meanings of words. Most words in English have several meanings and usages, and leaners need to be as flexible as the words themselves are.

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  • What about "I have roll and jam for breakfast" vs. "I have roll with jam for breakfast"? What's the difference? – user46036 Feb 25 '17 at 22:07

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