Cement is a binder. Similar to flour in a recipe, the purpose of cement is to hold the other materials together. If you forget to add flour to a cookie recipe, you’ll be pulling a hot mess out of your oven. But you can’t just use cement alone. You need the other ingredients; and what you mix with the cement will determine the final product.
Concrete is a composite of aggregate (such as sand or gravel), cement, and water. It’s like a cookie. You need the right chemical reaction of the ingredients to get a good cookie. The aggregate gives the concrete its mass, and the water activates the cement holding it all together. And there are probably just as many recipes for concrete as there are for cookies. What you mix together will determine the strength, resistance to freeze and thaw, workability, and how long it takes to “cook”.
The basic composition of mortar might seem similar to concrete, but what really sets it apart is how it is used. Made of a mixture of sand, a binder, and water, mortar is used to hold components together. Depending on the type of mortar you are using, the binder might be cement or lime. Either way, mortar is the frosting of construction. Like frosting holding the layers of a cake together, mortar joins the layers of stone or brick together and keeps everything from sliding around.
So, next time you are building, or baking, remember that cement, concrete, and mortar are three very different things. Now stop drooling, and get back to work!