The United States (and one other country, somewhere in Africa I think) uses the imperial system (feet, pounds, etc.), while pretty much everyone else uses the metric system (meters, kilograms). The reason the US still does so is probably for historical reasons; said reasons are not within the scope of this question, however.

Does the imperial system of units have any advantages over the metric system besides its widespread use in the United States?

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    $\begingroup$ No, it has no advantage. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is more of a philosophical question. What advantages does one system of units have over another, particularly for the vast majority of people? The ones that have actually been in widespread use clearly met the needs of those using them. It isn't like using metric helps you more deeply understand quantum gravity. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it isn't a question about physics $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2016 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie If it's not on-topic here, then where else would it be suitable for me to ask? $\endgroup$
    – JesseTG
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


The United States legalized the metric system in 1866; here is the Canadian view.

There are no advantages in the engineering world except for familiarity; applications with mixed units often result in errors. I have worked on numerous engineering and controls applications which attempted to use both, but by the mid-1990s, as the older engineers retired, and with greater international cooperation, the move to the metric system increased within certain industries, such as automotive, where I was then working.

For everyday use there remains the problem of familiarity; your favorite recipe, given in teaspoons, cups, and pounds, needs to be converted. With computerized recipes this may be easier.

Note also that all surveys in the US are done in the Imperial System, with chains and links, feet and acres. It is convenient that there are 640 acres in a square mile, which makes a section of land in the Northwest Territory (Great Lakes states); it divides nicely to make quarter sections and quarter-quarter sections. So if you live on a farm you would know a lot from the acreage or the distance.

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    $\begingroup$ There are huge disadvantages in engineering and manufacturing regarding switching from customary units to metric. There's a whole lot more to "going metric" than placing metric units in large print and the corresponding customary units in small print. "Going metric" means (for example) changing the pitch on fasteners and connectors. The US has a large industrial base dating back to World War II. Go to any large industrial site and you will find plenty of WWII-era machines still in use. Switching to metric would cost a lot and have little benefit. ... $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2016 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ The automotive industry forms a marked exception to the above. The US manufactures automobiles for both domestic and international markets. Having to have two sets of machinery represents a big cost. The US automotive industry has, for the most part, made the switch to metric in order to be competitive internationally. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2016 at 13:57

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