Is a pint 8 oz or 16 oz?

This is a common question that often causes confusion, especially when discussing pints of beer or other beverages. The short answer is that a pint is 16 fluid ounces in the United States, while it is typically 20 imperial fluid ounces in the UK. However, to fully understand this, we need to take a deeper look at the history and definitions of pints and fluid ounces.

What is a fluid ounce?

A fluid ounce is a unit of volume used to measure liquids. There are several different definitions of a fluid ounce depending on where you are in the world:

  • US fluid ounce = 1⁄128 US gallon = 29.5735 ml
  • Imperial fluid ounce = 1⁄160 Imperial gallon = 28.4130 ml

The US fluid ounce is about 4% larger than the Imperial fluid ounce. This difference is important when converting between US and Imperial fluid ounces or pints.

What is a pint?

A pint is a unit of volume equal to 16 fluid ounces. However, as we just discussed, fluid ounces can vary between US and Imperial definitions. Therefore:

  • A US pint = 16 US fluid ounces = 473 ml
  • An Imperial pint = 20 Imperial fluid ounces = 568 ml

The Imperial pint is about 20% larger than the US pint. Again, this difference matters when converting or specifying volumes in recipes, drink sizes, etc.

The history behind US and Imperial pints

So why is there a difference between US and Imperial pints and fluid ounces? It mainly comes down to historical use in different countries:

  • The Imperial system of units originated in the UK in 1824. The Imperial pint and fluid ounce aligned with common measurements used in the country at the time.
  • The US Customary Units system was derived from the earlier English units used in the American colonies. The US pint and fluid ounce were defined based on the common household measurements being used in the US in the late 1700s/early 1800s.

Over time, definitions changed slightly between the systems, resulting in the differences we see today. The US stuck with the customary units after gaining independence, while the UK eventually formalized the Imperial system.

How pints and fluid ounces are used today

In everyday use, people typically assume pints and fluid ounces follow the local convention:

  • In the US, a pint is 16 US fluid ounces, which is the size of a typical American beer glass.
  • In the UK, a pint is 20 Imperial fluid ounces, which is the standard pub serving size.

However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Some beer glasses in the UK are labeled as US pint glasses and hold 16 oz to serve American beers.
  • When discussing fluid ounces in cooking, the Imperial fluid ounce is sometimes still used in American recipes, especially for volumes like 4 or 8 oz.
  • Wine bottles are 750 ml, which is close to a US pint at 473 ml. However, wine glasses always refer to a 5 oz pour, which lines up with the Imperial fluid ounce.

This indicates there is still some crossover today between the usage of the two systems, even if people typically stick to the local convention.

Converting between US and Imperial pints and fluid ounces

Since the US and Imperial units differ in size, you need to take care when converting between them. Here are some key conversion factors:

  • 1 US fluid ounce = 0.96076 Imperial fluid ounces
  • 1 Imperial fluid ounce = 1.04084 US fluid ounces
  • 1 US pint = 0.832674 Imperial pints
  • 1 Imperial pint = 1.20094 US pints

So for example, if recipe calls for 4 Imperial fluid ounces of a liquid, that would equal 4.1634 US fluid ounces. Or if you order a 20 oz Imperial pint of beer in the UK, you’d actually be getting the equivalent of a 16.8 oz US pint.


In summary:

  • A US pint is 16 US fluid ounces, while an Imperial pint is 20 Imperial fluid ounces.
  • This difference comes from the historical development of the US Customary and Imperial measurement systems.
  • In everyday use, pints and fluid ounces typically follow local convention, but there are some exceptions.
  • Converting between the units requires knowing the size differences and conversion factors.

So while it may seem trivial at first glance, the distinction between a US pint and an Imperial pint actually has an important impact when measuring or converting volumes, especially for applications like cooking and brewing where accuracy matters. Being aware of the difference can help avoid potential confusion and mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are there two different definitions for pints and fluid ounces?

There are two main definitions for pints and fluid ounces – the US versions and the Imperial versions – because the units originated from different measurement systems developed in the US and the UK. The US Customary system was derived from earlier English units used in the American colonies in the 1700s/early 1800s. The Imperial system was formalized in the UK in 1824. Over time, the definitions diverged slightly, leading to the differences we see today.

What countries use the US pint definition?

The US pint, equal to 16 US fluid ounces, is used in the United States and other countries that utilize the US Customary system. This includes Liberia and Myanmar. Canada also commonly uses the US pint in day-to-day measurements, even though it has officially adopted the metric system.

What countries use the Imperial pint definition?

The Imperial pint, equal to 20 Imperial fluid ounces, is used in countries that utilize the Imperial system. Most notably this includes the United Kingdom, where the Imperial pint is the legally defined serving size for draught beer and cider. Other countries that use the Imperial pint are Australia, New Zealand, and some Caribbean nations.

Why do alcohol serving sizes differ between the US and UK?

This stems from the different pint definitions. A US pint is 16oz, so American beer glasses hold 16oz as standard. But an Imperial pint is 20oz. UK law regulated ale and beer to be served in 20oz Imperial pints, hence the standard pub glass size. Generally speaking, alcohol serving sizes closely align with local customary measurement systems. The differing pint sizes are a notable example of the impact.

Are US and Imperial pints used in cooking measurements?

Typically in cooking, fluid ounces and cups are more common than pints, but both US and Imperial fluid ounces are used. In the US, recipes normally rely on the US fluid ounce of ~30ml and US cup of 8oz. Older cookbooks may use Imperial ounces of ~28ml. In the UK and countries using Imperial volumes, recipes utilize the Imperial fluid ounce and Imperial cup measurements.

What’s the difference between a US and Imperial gallon?

Similar to pints, gallons also differ between the US and Imperial systems:

  • 1 US gallon = 4 US quarts = 8 US pints = 128 US fluid ounces
  • 1 Imperial gallon = 4 Imperial quarts = 8 Imperial pints = 160 Imperial fluid ounces

So a US gallon is about 0.8327 Imperial gallons. The Imperial gallon is about 20% larger than the US gallon, just as the Imperial pint is about 20% larger than the US pint.

Why are some beer glasses labeled as US pints or Imperial pints?

Some beer glasses, especially in the UK, are labeled as US pints or Imperial pints to make it clear what volume of beer they actually hold. As the two pint definitions differ, this avoids confusion if you ordered a beer expecting one size but received a glass with a different volume. The labeling helps provide clarity for customers on what they’ll be served.

Usage Examples

Here are some examples of how US and Imperial pints and fluid ounces are used:

  • A standard US beer glass holds 16 US fluid ounces (a US pint).
  • Draft beer and cider in UK pubs is legally served in 20 Imperial fluid ounce glasses (an Imperial pint).
  • A 750ml wine bottle contains approximately 25.4 US fluid ounces, which is close to a US pint.
  • Nutrition information on US products displays volumes in US cups and fluid ounces.
  • Older cookbooks may cite ingredients in Imperial 4 or 8 fluid ounce measurements.
  • To convert between units, you need to know the relevant conversion factors. For example, 4 Imperial fluid ounces = 4.167 US fluid ounces.

Key Facts

  • A US pint is 16 US fluid ounces.
  • An Imperial pint is 20 Imperial fluid ounces.
  • A US fluid ounce is ~29.57ml.
  • An Imperial fluid ounce is ~28.41ml.
  • The US and Imperial units come from different historical measurement systems used originally in the US and UK.
  • Be aware of the differences when converting volumes between US and Imperial units.

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