I've just started watching the BBC series Sherlock on Netflix. In the first 5 episodes, we've noticed that Sherlock and Watson always refer to long distances in miles rather than kilometers. It was my understanding that, since they are in the U.K., distances would be measured in kilometers. Is there something I'm missing?

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    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 12:52

2 Answers 2


The UK’s usage of the metric system is a mixed bag. Here’s a somewhat brief overview:


  • Large distances are measured in miles, with yards for shorter ones
  • Speed is miles per hour, or mph
  • Fuel is purchased in litres
  • Fuel efficiency is measured in miles per gallon (1), or mpg
  • The space within a car will be given in litres

Around the home

  • Weather is almost always discussed in Celsius
  • The sizes of rooms will be given in both square foot and square metres
  • Computer and TV screens are given in diagonal inches
  • Standard sizes of furniture (for example, kitchen units) are measured in millimetres.
  • Paper is A sizes (A4 being the most common), which are metric.
  • Beds (well, mattresses) are measured in feet and inches, and given names, including single (3’ x 6’3”), small double (4’ x6’3”) and Superking (6’ x 6’6”).
  • People will mostly use feet and inches for their height. A few younger people may use centimetres.
  • Depending on age people will use stone and pounds or kilograms for their weight


  • When cooking people will use either grams or ounces, mostly depending on age
  • All food legally has to be sold in grams or millilitres. However...
    • Milk will be sold by the pint(2) (1, 2, 4 and 6 pint bottles) - but be labelled with the respective amount in millilitres too.
    • Beer is purchased by the pint
    • Wine is purchased in 75cl (750ml) bottles
    • Some other miscellaneous products will be a weird number of grams or millilitres - especially products in glass bottles, like vinegar.
    • Steak and burgers will be sold as a number of ounces
  • Not exactly non-metric, but eggs are still sold by the half dozen or dozen. More recently it has been possible to buy packs of 10 or 15 eggs (but I’ve never seen a pack of 5).


  • Land is measured in acres or hectares
  • Horse races are measured in furlongs
  • Horses themselves are measured in hands
  • Tools (Allen keys, drill bits) will often come in both metric and imperial sizes - very frustrating!
  • Desk fans come in 6, 9, 12 and 16 inch diameters normally.

  • (1) - a gallon in the U.K. is 4.546 litres
  • (2) - a pint in the U.K. is 20 fluid ounces, or 568ml.
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 12:51
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    If you disagree with the answer, please post a new one. If you want to suggest additions, post them in the chat link above or post your own answer.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 16:15

It's a little-known fact that the U.K. is actually one of the few - if not the only - place(s) in Europe that still uses miles to measure distance! The U.K. does use some metric, but it's a bit of a mix, and distance is one of the areas where they're still on the imperial system.

  • 1
    Little known fact by who? Everyone in the UK knows this as does, I’m willing to bet, most people in Europe (as the source of a joke, if nothing else). I suspect what you mean by “little known” is most people in America, who are - as a general - famous for having little knowledge of the world outside their own country?
    – Darren
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 7:32
  • Americans would not even think to notice this as an 'issue', since they also use miles and it would (Sherlock using miles) would fit their world-view.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 11:37

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