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?

  • 3
    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
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 8:46
  • 10
    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. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 10:15

12 Answers 12


container as in open container laws

  • 3
    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
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 14:14
  • @Caleb And then it could be 20', 40', or 53', either standard or high-cube... The permutations are many. Commented Jan 29, 2016 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
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 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... Commented Sep 4, 2017 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.

  • 1
    In the USA, this is also what I've commonly heard one called. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:39
  • 1
    I'm in the Midwest USA. I have never heard this term. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:34
  • 4
    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft: Nonsense... you heard it fifteen minutes ago! :D Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:50
  • 1
    I've heard it in a singles bar.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 3:08
  • A single would be the best word to use in this case. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 17:42

Serving makes sense:

a single portion of food or drink; helping

  • 2
    +1 Unless, of course, they are promoting the low calories, in which case they will suggest there are 12 servings per pack.
    – bib
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 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'. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 1:16
  • 7
    @EdwinAshworth nobody? I think in the context it conveys the idea while being unlikely to infringe on other terminology.
    – jimm101
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:20
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:55
  • 1
    This definition for beer says an individual serving of beer; a glass, can, or bottle of beer: Commented Jan 29, 2016 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.

  • 3
    Unless, of course, the beer comes in bottles?
    – jpaugh
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:59
  • 1
    @jpaugh "explain that everything you say equally applies to bottles and you're using the term can for simplicity"
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 7:41
  • 2
    That's an unusual usage of the word "simplicity"... Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:00
  • @user568458 no, that is normal: google.com/… Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 18:37
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 21:37

You could use drink.

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

  • 3
    "Beverage" can also be used if formality is wanted. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:04
  • A beer is not a consistent measure. It would be more usual to quote the price per pint or litre.
    – Stevetech
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 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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