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I know that "petrol" is called "gasoline" in the USA, but frequently shortened into just "gas".

But then there's also the English word "gas", which to the best of my knowledge is still the same in the USA.

So what if somebody is talking about their gas-stove while casually mentioning their car?

I've called the gas company about these outrageous gas bills, oh, and Honey, will you please drive and fill up the car with gas?

Or is mains gas called something different in the USA?

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  • This answer suggests that a natural gas cooker is called "gas stove", "gas range", or similar: english.stackexchange.com/questions/210512/…
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 13:50
  • To clarify, you are interested in domestic terms that an ordinary person might use about their domestic supply (specifically methane/natural gas piped to houses, rather than propane etc sold in tanks) and what they buy at a filling station? Rather than terms in the energy industry (when "oil and gas" or "petroleum and (natural) gas") are often used.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 13:52
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    OP, you might be stunned to find out that nearly every language uses words with more than one definition and its speakers somehow manage to communicate. A perusal of your local dictionary will be quite instructive in this regard. Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 20:19
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    In the US we do not say "mains gas" as far as I know. Nor do we say "mains electricity".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 2:05
  • @GEdgar - gas pipe/line and line voltage +1
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 2:08

2 Answers 2

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Yes, American English uses gas for both meanings. In fact, you've hinted at another: In your example gas is being used not only for petrol but as a shorthand for "natural gas." We would also use gas for the broad physics meaning of a state of matter: "Oxygen is a gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure." We would speak of nitrogen gas, neon gas, etc.

Confusingly, we also regularly refer to liquid propane as "gas": "The grill is out of gas. I'll have to go exchange the gas canister for a full one." —Which is, of course, a liquid, at least in the canister. I presume the British don't engage in this madness, but maybe someone can chime in to enlighten me whether they call it petrol as well.

DjinTonic's point stands: context is powerful. We have plenty of words that serve multiple meanings (consider poor multi-tasking on!), and context usually eliminates confusion. If you walk up to a blindfolded American stranger and blurt out "I got gas!" then yes, they won't know whether you mean that you topped up the car, got a canister of LP, or perhaps are suffering from indigestion. But if they can open their eyes and see the grill tank you're holding, the petrol pump and car beside you, or your roll of Tums (or better yet, if you have the common decency to establish some conversational context before diving in!)*, they're in the clear.

* I know someone who is terrible about this. The other day he launched a conversation by talking about his difficulty with his router, and was a few sentences in before I realized he was talking about woodworking rather than home wi-fi.

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    Propane may be liquid in the tank, but it's a gas when released and when burnt. Petrol (gasoline or "white gas") camping stoves vaporise the fuel before burning, but they're regarded as liquid-fuelled because you can pour the fuel. We're more likely to use butane than propane in the UK, but it's never called petrol. I have stoves that run on all of these options.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:54
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    We have an advantage in your related example: router and router are pronounced differently. The route taken by IP packets is a homophone for "root", while what a router does to wood is a homophone to rout as in force troops to flee
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:57
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    Ah, by "we" you mean "we from the UK", that wasn't immediately clear from the single comment context! Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 15:20
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    My native AmE region "route" sounds like "root" but "router"/"router" sound the same as "rout". In the current region I am in, it is probably even odds that "route" is uttered as "root" or "rout" but "router/router" sound like "rout". Minor note: LP is more properly called LPG ("Liquid Petroleum Gas").
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 15:34
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    One of the reasons why this ambiguity of gas almost never causes any real-life problems is that cars powered by natural gas are uncommon in the United States. If they were to become more common (which is quite unlikely), some different terminology would probably emerge.
    – jsw29
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 16:48
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I've called the gas company about these outrageous gas bills, oh, and Honey, will you please drive and fill up the car with gas?

Your understanding is correct: the gas station sells gas (petrol), and you might also have a gas stove or a gas dryer (meaning natural gas).

But notice that in your sentence above, even without the context, "the gas company" unambiguously means the natural-gas utility provider (Con Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, whatever). Exxon, Shell, Amoco, BP, and so on are known as oil companies, even though they run gas stations.

Also notice that the size of your gas bill (meaning the natural-gas part of your monthly utility bill) is only indirectly correlated with gas prices (meaning the price of petrol). :)

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