Column: ‘Marinate’ and ‘marinade’


QUESTION: “Dear Grammar Guy, is there a difference between ‘marinate’ and ‘marinade?’ I was flipping through a cook book the other day and the author seemed to be a real stickler for those two words. It made me wonder. Thanks for responding!”

ANSWER: As grilling season will be fast upon us, this seems like a perfect time to jump into this one. Let’s get to it!

The big difference here is that “marinade” is a noun, while “marinate” is a verb.

A “marinade” is a sauce “in which meat or fish is soaked to add flavor” or to make more tender. For some reason the dictionary discriminates against veggie-lovers here, but I don’t: go ahead and drop whatever you like into a marinade, vegetarian readers. I’m personally fond of dropping some bell peppers, onions and tomatoes into a nice lemony marinade for kabobs.

Now I’m hungry … but, back to grammar!

To “marinate” is to put your meat or veggies of choice into the sauce. It’s as simple as that, really.

Now, before I draw the wrath of the culinary community upon me, there is a word used in the kitchen for soaking non-protein items in liquid – “macerate.” It’s used primarily to mean softening fruit by steeping in a liquid. “Marinate” and “marinade” are perfectly acceptable for the rest of us, though.

That’s it! Now that our grammar question is settled, on to more gastronomic pursuits: grilling season is almost here!


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