'Tablespoon' vs 'Teaspoon': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 17, 2023

Do you need to know the difference between a 'tablespoon' vs. 'teaspoon?' If you plan to cook or make a beverage, you will!

Do not worry, though! I can help. In this guide, I explain the difference between the two terms and give definitions, pronunciations, and examples to help you remember how to use them.

Are you in a hurry?

Here is a quick answer: 

  • 'Tablespoon' is a noun for a measurement equal to three teaspoons or half a fluid ounce. 
  • 'Teaspoon' is a noun for a measurement equal to one-sixth of a fluid ounce or one-third of a tablespoon. 

Keep reading to learn more about these two common measurements, when to use each, and other helpful information.

What is the Difference between 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

In addition to being two specific volumes of liquid, 'tablespoons' and 'teaspoons' are two commonly used utensils. If someone asks you for a 'tablespoon,' they want the larger spoon. The latter represents the smaller one.

People using U.S. and European metric measurement systems use the terms. Here are the two sizes in each metric system:

U.S. Metric System Conversions of 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

  • 'Tablespoon' - a half fluid ounce/three 'teaspoons'
  • 'Teaspoon' - a sixth fluid ounce/one-third 'tablespoon'

European Metric System Conversions of 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

  • 'Tablespoon' - 15 milliliters
  • 'Teaspoon' - 5 milliliters

Both measurements are necessary when cooking. It is essential to pay attention to and use the correct one. Otherwise, you may wonder why your dishes are never quite right when you follow a recipe.

Definition of 'Tablespoon': What Does 'Tablespoon' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of 'tablespoon' is:

  • A large table serving spoon

It can also mean:

  • A measurement equal to three teaspoons
  • A measure equal to 15 milliliters
  • A measure equal to a half-fluid ounce
  • The larger of two spoons

'Tablespoon': Similar Terms and Synonyms

  • Soupspoon
  • Ladle
  • Scoop
  • Dessertspoon
  • Teaspoon
  • Dinner spoon
  • Spoon

Phrases with 'Tablespoon'

  • Add a tablespoon
  • One more tablespoon
  • Stir in a tablespoon
  • Tablespoon of olive oil

Definition of 'Teaspoon': What Does 'Teaspoon' Mean?

The definition of 'teaspoon' is:

  • A small spoon used for eating

It can also mean:

  • A measurement equal to one-third of a tablespoon
  • A measure equal to 5 milliliters
  • A measure equal to one-sixth of a fluid ounce

'Teaspoon': Similar Terms and Synonyms

  • Tablespoon
  • Soupspoon
  • Ladle
  • Scoop
  • Dessertspoon
  • Spoon

Phrases with 'Teaspoon'

  • Hit on the head with a teaspoon
  • Teaspoon of sugar
  • Add a teaspoon

When and How to Use 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

As you can see above, these words can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, it depends on the context.

So, here are some tips on when to use each.

  • Use a 'tablespoon' when asking someone for an oversized spoon.

For example, you might hear someone say:

'Please hand me a tablespoon. This teaspoon is not working for my cereal. I can only get one piece on the spoon at a time.'

  • Use a 'teaspoon' when using a small spoon to make someone's tea or coffee.

For example, you might ask someone:

'How many teaspoons of sugar would you like?'

  • Use the correct measurement when following or giving a recipe.

For example, I might tell someone:

'Now add one teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients. Too much baking powder will give the dish a funny taste and consistency. So, ensure your measurement is accurate.'

  • Use either if you do not require a specific measurement.

For example, you could say:

'Please hand me a teaspoon or tablespoon so I can stir this soup.'

While you can use these words interchangeably on occasion, you should not use mix them up when you are using a recipe or writing one.

Pronunciation of 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

Knowing how to pronounce 'tablespoon' vs. 'teaspoon' will help you speak more confidently.

So, here is a pronunciation guide:

  • You pronounce 'tablespoon' according to these phonetic spellings:

tay-bel-spoon or tä-bel-spūn

  • Pronounce 'teaspoon' using these phonetic spellings:

tee-spoon or të-spūn

Sample Sentences With 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

You should be an expert on the difference between 'tablespoon' vs. 'teaspoon.' Nevertheless, take a look at these sample sentences to see ways to use them.


  • I need a tablespoon to stir these potatoes. It is too difficult to stir them with this small spoon.
  • Do you really want three tablespoons of sugar in your coffee? That is more sugar than anyone needs.
  • The recipe needs at least a tablespoon or dollop of sour cream. You can adjust according to taste, though.
  • Add one tablespoon of the vitamin powder to a cup of water and drink the mix each night before bed.
  • Mix three tablespoons of water into one cup of the compound to create enough cement for the project.


  • A teaspoon may not be enough. The herbal doctor suggested taking a large spoonful of the tonic each day.
  • You don't need more than a teaspoon of salt in any dish. More than that is unhealthy and overpowering.
  • Pass me the measuring spoons, please. I need to add a teaspoon of instant coffee to the chocolate cake.
  • The effect of putting more than a teaspoon of the rising powder was a huge loaf of bread.
  • Adding a teaspoon of warm water will activate the ingredients. So, you need to work quickly after you create the mixture.


  • We are going to use four tablespoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt.
  • Put the tablespoons here and the teaspoons there.
  • I will have three teaspoons or one tablespoon of sugar in my tea.

Final Advice on 'Tablespoon' vs. 'Teaspoon'

Here is a quick recap of what you learned about 'tablespoon' vs. 'teaspoon':

  • 'Tablespoon' is the larger spoon in a traditional place setting and a measurement equal to half a fluid ounce. 
  • 'Teaspoon' is a measurement equal to 5 milliliters or one-third of a tablespoon. 

If these words ever confuse you in the future, you can always come back here to review this lesson. You can also read through the other grammar guides. The confusing words section includes dozens of similar posts that will help you understand how to use words and phrases.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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