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The big debate: metric vs imperial…

Metric vs imperial

When discussing driving rules that you’d like changed a debate about switching from Mph to km quickly escalated to one on metric and imperial measurements. So which measurement do you prefer? We’ve invited community member Ian to sum up the debate so far…

In our discussion on switching from miles per hour to kilometersWilliam asked:

‘How about a topic should we go back to using Imperial rather Metric for selling items.’

So, ladies and gentlemen: are you happy with your millimetres, content with your millilitres, weighed down by your kilograms? Or do you longingly hark back to the halcyon days of Cables, Links, Rods, Perches, Quarts, Gallons, Hundredweights and fluid scruples?

Metric vs Imperial

For a number of years now the UK has used metric measurements, as Malcolm R pointed out:

‘We are a metric country in general – business, education, manufacturing. Just a few hangovers like road distances.’

But that doesn’t mean that everyone thinks in metric measurements, for Bishbut, imperial measurements are still useful:

‘Many stores are still using imperial measurements so when I go to buy anything by length etc. I do not which measurement to use .It is unhelpful to go with a metric measurement just be told we still sell in feet and inches . lets return to imperial the children taught metric are young enough to learn imperial measures we older folk cannot get imperial out of our heads We are leaving the EU lets just forget about metric things and revert to our well known things’

But, wavechange wondered, if we were to switch back to imperial, why we should stop at measurements?

‘I suppose we could go back to pounds, shillings and pence too. I have some of the old coins but would need 792 of these large old pennies to buy a pint of beer in my local pub.’

Quiet pointed out, for those who aren’t using metric, that it’s just a learning exercise:

‘I’m 64 and was taught and used metric measurements at school (and Centigrade as well as Fahrenheit). How is it still difficult for we older folk? If you’re 92, like my dear old Mum, you may just have a point.’

And a learning exercise should be necessary, otherwise, we end up in strange situations like poor Clint Kirk:

‘I went into a major chain DIY shop last year, and took a wooden board to their cutting service. “Can you cut this into 50×33 centimeter rectangles, please? ” “Sorry mate, my machine only measures in millimetres.”’

Over to you

It’s clear that some feel we should lose all metric measurements, others that we should keep both systems. A bit like train lines with varying gauges.

So what do you think?

This is a guest contribution by Which? Conversation community member Ian. All views are Ian’s and the community members own, and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.


I would never go to Kilometres and would stay Miles only. I do not use anything other than imperial measurements I buy in ounces at food stores and inches or yards for materials. I hate continental measurements.


In the coming years, the UK is going to have to work hard to retain respect from other countries and trade effectively with them. Alternatively, we could foster our reputation for tradition and quaintness, and live in the past.

Although I can use both the metric and imperial systems, I would very much like to see metrication completed without messing around with both systems for decades to come. Children are taught metric units and it is young people who are the future of this country.


We are a metric country – having worked in industry,design and manufacturing was metric. There are of course hangovers from imperial days partly due to investment in machinery – certain steel tubing for instance is 76.2, 88.9, 114.3, 139.8mm dia – the fact that they were originally tooled up as 3, 3 1/2, 4 1/2,and 5 1/2″ doesn’t make then any less metric. It is how you describe them and use them that matters.


Unless we can identify any specific problems that ought to be fixed, I do not think we should be rushing to introduce further changes to our current mixed system of units.

The costs of making any such changes would have to be met by consumers, via either increased prices or increased taxes. Either way, if we are going to spend more money on public goods, then health, welfare and education ought to be much higher priorities.

Also, given the advent of smart phones, most folk are now carrying around small PCs that are more than capable of helping with unit conversions.


I think we are going to remain a nation using both metric and imperial.

I recently bought some blinds, the rail width in metric with 3½” slats. Mats are given in metric sizes but are actually multiples of feet having just bought an exact 3ft x 4ft. Garden fencing is still in foot widths.

I might be happy using both for most things, but I will always be 5ft something in height and st and lbs for my weight.


I must admit I don’t know my weight in kilos. Off the scales I expect.

Our old bathroom weighing platform is looking a bit tired [well it would be in our household] so it might be time to go metric and digital, although I’d really like to get one of those lovely red Berkel weighing machines that used to stand in Woolworth’s and print a card recording the weight.


My own scale weight “Only one at a time, please!” is actually the same in both Imperial and Metric…


If the scales go off-scale, perhaps a weighbridge would be the answer. They are bound to have them in Weybridge.


When it became mandatory to mark goods with weight and volume in metric units, milk was excluded because it was commonly sold in glass pint bottles. Now that most milk is sold in plastic bottles, we usually have weird sizes such as 1.136 and 2.272 litres (equivalent to 2 and 4 pints), whereas organic and long-life milk are often sold in litres. On the basis that manufacturers often change the size of plastic containers, I really don’t believe that it would be difficult or expensive to move to metric sizes.