Is 1 Litre the same as 2 pints?

Whether 1 litre is the same as 2 pints is a common question for those working with different systems of measurement. Litres and pints are both units of volume used to measure liquid amounts, but they originate from different measurement systems. Litres are part of the metric system which is used widely worldwide, while pints are part of the imperial system of measurement used originally in the United Kingdom.

Quick Answer

The quick answer is no, 1 litre is not exactly the same as 2 pints. However, they are close approximations of each other.

Metric and Imperial Systems

The litre and pint units come from different systems of measurement:

  • The litre is part of the metric system which uses base units of metres, grams, seconds, amperes, kelvin, mole and candela.
  • The pint is part of the imperial system of measurement used originally in the United Kingdom which uses inches, feet, yards, miles, ounces, pounds, stones, gallons etc.

The metric system, which includes the litre, provides a coherent base of measurement units which can be conveniently scaled up or down for different purposes. It is widely used across most of the world today. The imperial system is older and less systematic, but still used routinely in countries such as the United States.

What is a Litre?

A litre is a metric unit used to measure volume and capacity. By definition:

  • 1 litre is equal to 1000 cubic centimeters (cm3).
  • A cubic centimetre is the volume of a cube which measures 1 centimetre along each edge.

From this we can understand the litre as a derived unit of volume based on the metre. The official definition relates it directly to the cubic metre.

One litre is also equal to:

  • 0.001 cubic metres (m3)
  • 1000 millilitres (ml)
  • 0.26417205 US gallons

In day to day use, litres are commonly used to measure volumes of liquids such as water, oil, milk, alcoholic drinks etc. It is convenient for grocery shopping, cooking, measuring fuel consumption and more.

Common uses of litres

  • 1.5-2 litre bottles of soft drinks and water
  • Measuring jug capacities e.g. 250 ml, 500 ml, 1 litre
  • Wine bottle sizes 750 ml or 1 litre
  • Petrol consumption e.g. litres/100km

What is a Pint?

A pint is an imperial unit of volume that was historically defined as equivalent to one eighth of a gallon. It is now defined by the UK Weights and Measures Act of 1963 as equal to exactly 0.5683 litres.

Some key facts about pints:

  • 1 UK pint = 0.5683 litres
  • 1 US pint = 0.473176 litres (about 16% smaller than the UK pint)
  • 20 imperial fluid ounces = 1 pint
  • Used to measure volumes of beer, milk or other liquids

Though not an official SI unit, pints are still routinely used in the UK and Ireland for measuring beer, milk, and other commodities. Pubs still serve beers and ciders by the pint. The US also still uses US pints for beer and milk volumes.

Common uses of pints

  • Ordering beer by the pint in pubs
  • Milk bottles come in pints
  • Measuring out ingredients when cooking

Converting Between Litres and Pints

With litres and pints being from different measurement systems, converting between them requires a conversion factor:

  • 1 litre = 1.76 UK pints
  • 1 UK pint = 0.568 litres

Some common liquid volume conversions:

1 litre = 1.76 UK pints = 2.11 US pints
1 UK pint = 0.568 litres = 1.2 US pints
1 US pint = 0.473 litres = 0.8 UK pints

So while 1 litre is close to 2 UK pints, it is not exactly equal. The precise conversions are:

  • 1 litre = 1.76 UK pints
  • 2 UK pints = 1.14 litres

For simplicity, many choose to treat 1 litre as equivalent to 2 UK pints in day-to-day uses. However, for precise measurement and conversion it is important to know the exact figures.

Why are Liters and Pints Different?

Litres and pints originate from different systems of measurement which accounts for the discrepancy between them. Reasons they differ include:

  • Based on different standards – litres on metres, pints originally on gallons
  • Defined at different times – litres in 1799 vs pints redefined in 1824 and 1963
  • SI coherent system vs imperial system
  • Metric standardised worldwide vs imperial still used in some countries

When the metric system was introduced, the units including the litre were designed to create an integrated, standard approach for measurement. The older imperial units like pints were not created systematically but organically from commerce and trade over the centuries.

Metric units have also been precisely redefined multiple times to maintain consistency across measurements. Imperial units retain numerous quirks from their history – for example, the UK, US and Canadian pints are all different sizes.

Advantages of Using Litres vs Pints

Given litres originate from the more systematic metric measurement system, they have some advantages over pints in many situations:

  • Universal standard – litres have a consistent definition worldwide
  • Easier conversions – based on decimal numbers unlike pints
  • Part of SI units – integrate with coherent metric measurement system
  • Wider usage – litres used more widely worldwide than pints

For science, engineering, global trade and other situations requiring universal measurement standards, litres have significant advantages over pints.

For everyday usage such as buying milk in the UK, pints have the advantage of being the customary local unit. But litres may be easier to work with for calculating volumes needed in recipes for example.

Should Pints be Replaced by Litres?

While litres have advantages for measurement standardisation, there are arguments for retaining pints for uses where local context is more important than universality:

  • Tradition – pints are the historical local unit in countries like UK, Ireland and US
  • Cultural identity – especially for British pints of beer, Irish stouts
  • Retail economy – changing would require adjustment by businesses, cost expenditure
  • Consumer habits – people used to thinking in pints for certain products

For these reasons, pints retain a place in Britain, Ireland and the US even though they are not part of the international SI system of units. Any move to fully replace pints with litres would need to overcome cultural inertia and transition costs to businesses.

The UK government has maintained certain exceptions allowing use of pints such as for beer and cider. Similarly, US pints are still standard for milk and beer. This localised use seems likely to continue even while litres increase in global usage.

Should pints be replaced by litres for beer in the UK?

For British beer drinkers, pints are ingrained culturally, but some argue litres would align better with the modern global economy. There are reasonable points on both sides of the debate:

Keep pints – tradition and local identity

  • Pints integral to British pub culture and history
  • Ordering in pints, not litres, retains cultural character
  • Tourists expect to order British real ale in pints
  • Important for identity – “only a pint will do”

Use litres – economics and standardisation

  • Litres align with EU and international trade standards
  • Enable easier exports and imports of beer with standard units
  • More compatible with modern packaged beer sales
  • Easier for customers to compare beer prices

This remain a complex issue with reasoned cases on both sides. While litres make objective sense for trade and sales, the subjective cultural attachment to British pints cannot be discounted.


In summary, while 1 litre is close to 2 pints in volume, it does not equate exactly. One litre is equivalent to 1.76 UK pints. The difference arises because litres and pints originate from different systems of measurement – the coherent metric system vs the more organic imperial system.

For applications requiring consistent global standards, litres have advantages over pints. But pints retain a place culturally in countries like Britain, Ireland and the US. Changing from pints would meet resistance from businesses and consumers used to buying products like beer in pints. In practice, litres and pints seem likely to co-exist globally for the foreseeable future, each retaining distinct roles.

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