We pour “liquid” into a container. But what’s the word that should be used in place of “pour” when we are referring to the pouring of a solid substance such as a sugar cube, and not liquid (I am pretty sure “pour” is commonly used for liquids):

He poured ___ sugar cubes into the container.



2 Answers 2


"Pour" can be used with solids, but usually with substances with some visible degree of fluid behavior. This is where it gets a little tricky, because it depends on scale. A small number of sugar cubes doesn't behave like a fluid at small scale. But a truckload of sugar cubes at a larger scale sure does. So it feels right to talk about pouring out a truckload of sugar cubes, but not to pour 3 of them into a teacup.

For that, we might say "put in," "drop in," "dump in" or simply "add."

He likes his tea sweet, so I put 3 sugar cubes into his cup.

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    In particular, pouring something normally involves tipping or otherwise manipulating a container so that some of its content flows (or rolls) out of it under gravity. One would not use the word "pour" for picking up and dropping or placing down individual items one at a time. Feb 22, 2021 at 2:01
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    ""Pour" can be used with solids, but usually with substances with some visible degree of fluid behavior." For example, salt, powdered sugar, sand, or other powders.
    – nick012000
    Feb 22, 2021 at 2:31
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    @nick012000 Though that gets tricky, because if the total volume is high enough proportionate to the size of the individual pieces, almost anything exhibits fluid-like behavior. Dumping a few dozen 2cm pebbles out of a bucket would not usually be called pouring, but dumping a few hundred million out of the back of a dump truck could conceivably be called pouring. Feb 22, 2021 at 12:45
  • I think the manipulation of the container is key. You might pour out the last three sugar cubes from a bag, but not if you removed them one by one with a spoon. You could say 'empty out' here, but not if the bag wasn't empty at the end. Feb 22, 2021 at 14:46

Where "pour" won't work because the object of the action is not liquidy (or fluidic) enough, you can use an alternative that describes either the action the actor performs on the container, or the motion the "poured" object takes toward the destination.


  • "She tumbled several sugar cubes into her cup."
  • "He tilted the single brick of curry into the frying pan."
  • "She jostled exactly three ice cubes into the bowl, plus one onto the floor." (Or "shook")
  • "He rolled a nutmeg out of the spice jar."

Some of these are ambiguous as to whether the verb is indicating the actor using a hand or other object to assist with the motion vs. indicating the motion the object took as a result of what the actor did to its container (which in this short form, we are trying not to specify); I suggest those cases which seem ambiguous would either be left ambiguous, replaced with a less ambiguous verb, or expanded/replaced with a compound description of the action to remove the ambiguity, e.g. "With her staff, she shoved and awkwardly rolled the gold ingot out of the tilted wheelbarrow."

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    I don't like any of these examples except for "rolled" and "shook". "Tumble" is an intransitive verb. You don't tumble things; things tumble. Tilting into something also doesn't make a lot of sense.
    – user253751
    Feb 22, 2021 at 9:26
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    I also don't like these examples. "Tumble" is strictly intransitive for me; "tilted" is kind-of ok (although I think something like "slid" would work better here), but I don't understand curry as something that can come in bricks; likewise, "a nutmeg" sounds odd to me, although I'm not sure how else I'd refer to the whole spice. "Jostled" and "shook" are fine though
    – Tristan
    Feb 22, 2021 at 11:22
  • What does a rock tumbler do?
    – X Goodrich
    Feb 23, 2021 at 9:06
  • This product (Golden Lion curry sauce mix) is a hard brick when you open it. It liquifies when heated in a pan. d2d8wwwkmhfcva.cloudfront.net/400x/…
    – X Goodrich
    Feb 23, 2021 at 9:08

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