This is for academic writing purposes.

I am trying to come up with a word that could indistinguishably describe a bottle or a can within a pack of beer. I cannot say "a unit" because "a unit" in my field means a pack (of beer). For example, when we say, price per unit of beer, it means, price per 1 pack of beer. I, on the other hand, seek to say "price per bottle/can" within such unit. Is there a word that is equally suitable to describe either a bottle or a can?

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    Have you considered that the word unit might be misapplied here? Are you using the words outer and inner anywhere? One solution is 24 units in an inner (the box of 24 tins which is taken through the checkout), and those retail boxes are supplied in an outer. If the retail boxes are simply supplied on a pallet, then they become the outer. – Andrew Leach Jan 28 '16 at 8:46
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    Bear in mind that when talking about alcoholic drinks, unit has another meaning as well. The phrase "Price Per Unit" is used in legislation in Scotland, referring to units of Alcohol. – Paul Butcher Jan 28 '16 at 10:15

12 Answers 12


container as in open container laws

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    Easily misunderstood in the world of distribution. You could ask someone to get you one container and end up with a giant steel box. – Caleb Jan 29 '16 at 14:14
  • @Caleb And then it could be 20', 40', or 53', either standard or high-cube... The permutations are many. – Monty Harder Jan 29 '16 at 20:24

What's wrong with beer?

There are 12 beers in a 12-pack. The price is 70¢ a beer.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 5 '17 at 1:04
  • Incidentally, a friend of mine from Sudbury, Ontario says beer at this juncture. That is, the plural is as invisible as it is in deer. "We had about six beer." Very strange to my ears... – Luke Sawczak Sep 4 '17 at 20:36

In the UK trade this is sometimes referred to as a "single". Usually meaning one bottle from a case of 6, 12 etc, where the case is the main stock keeping unit (SKU) for distribution. It could also apply to cans.

E.g. "Quantity: 3 cases, 1 single." or "Quantity: 1 cases, 3 singles."

You'll see this reported on customs and excise forms along with liquid volume and alcohol volume and other tax related measures of quantity.

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    In the USA, this is also what I've commonly heard one called. – hatchet - done with SOverflow Jan 28 '16 at 21:39
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    I'm in the Midwest USA. I have never heard this term. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 29 '16 at 16:34
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft: Nonsense... you heard it fifteen minutes ago! :D – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 29 '16 at 16:50
  • I've heard it in a singles bar. – Hot Licks Jan 31 '16 at 3:08
  • A single would be the best word to use in this case. – Ian Stanway Feb 3 '16 at 17:42

Serving makes sense:

a single portion of food or drink; helping

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    +1 Unless, of course, they are promoting the low calories, in which case they will suggest there are 12 servings per pack. – bib Jan 28 '16 at 0:49
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    'Serving' is inappropriate. Nobody would call a single can or bottle of beer (whether in/from a multipack or not) a 'serving' or 'helping'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 28 '16 at 1:16
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    @EdwinAshworth nobody? I think in the context it conveys the idea while being unlikely to infringe on other terminology. – jimm101 Jan 28 '16 at 2:20
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    @EdwinAshworth in the US, 12 oz is the size for 86.347% of all beer sales (totally made up), but here are 20 ozers and 32 ozers and others, but a serving, per DUI guidelines, is technically 8 oz, so the notion of serving is pretty much a fantasy. [Nevertheless, I voted for serving.] – bib Jan 29 '16 at 0:55
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    This definition for beer says an individual serving of beer; a glass, can, or bottle of beer: – Fuhrmanator Jan 29 '16 at 6:39

I would use can, and the first time you do this, explain that everything you say equally applies to bottles and you're using the term can for simplicity.

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    Unless, of course, the beer comes in bottles? – jpaugh Jan 28 '16 at 22:59
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    @jpaugh "explain that everything you say equally applies to bottles and you're using the term can for simplicity" – DCShannon Jan 29 '16 at 7:41
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    That's an unusual usage of the word "simplicity"... – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 29 '16 at 16:00
  • @user568458 no, that is normal: google.com/… – Matthew Moisen Jan 29 '16 at 18:37
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    Since this question is about academic writing, and I am an academic reader, I would like to make a personal request to the OP: please, please don't do stuff like this. In my field, at least, people rarely read papers straight through, from beginning to end. It's more typical to jump around, skipping backward and forward, reading some parts closely and skimming others. As a result, the first place a reader sees a word is often not the first place it's used. And when a word looks non-technical, readers often assume it means what they think it means... – Vectornaut Jan 30 '16 at 21:37

You could use drink.

Each unit contains twelve bottles of beer, at a price of 70c per drink.

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    "Beverage" can also be used if formality is wanted. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 29 '16 at 16:04
  • A beer is not a consistent measure. It would be more usual to quote the price per pint or litre. – Stevetech Jan 31 '16 at 6:38

I like @uosɐſ's and @Furhmanator's suggestions of just using beer. It's both a mass noun and a count noun, so there's no problem saying "price per beer."

  • There are six beers in a six pack.
  • The average price per beer is $1.25.

Or you might just go with subunit since they are smaller units within the larger unit (a pack).

  • There are six subunits in a six pack.
  • The average price per subunit is $1.25.

In the US, a six-pack or twelve-pack has six or twelve cans or bottles. I'm afraid you might be stuck with saying 1 can/bottle and explaining it. Or you can just state that you plan to use the word container or unit.


you could try:


a hollow container for holding liquids

  • a container (as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup, or bowl) for holding something



For clarity, you might refer to it as a singleton;

a person or thing occurring singly, especially an individual set apart from others.

So the sentence would be...

"She took the 6-pack and split it into singletons"



While I do not know the beer industry (except as a consumer), in other inventory contexts I have seen the word piece used as a subunit.

Wiktionary says:

A part of a larger whole, usually in such a form that it is able to be separated from other parts.


The word subunit might work as well.


Following practices in the beverage industry you could call this a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_keeping_unit


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