Ton vs. tonne

In American English, a ton is a unit of measurement equaling 2,000 pounds. In non-U.S. measurements, a ton equals 2,240 pounds. A tonne, also known as a metric ton, is a unit of mass equaling 1,000 kilograms.

American English speakers generally have no use for tonne, so the spelling rarely appears in U.S. publications. Elsewhere, fastidious publications use the appropriate spellings for the units of measurement. And ton (often pluralized) is used informally as a noun meaning a large extent, amount, or number.


British, Canadian, and Australian publications generally reserve tonne for very narrow uses (i.e., in reference to the metric ton)—for example:

Almost 30 firefighters tackled a blaze involving 2,000 tonnes of rubbish at a recycling centre in Southampton. [BBC News]

His own crop was reduced from 4000 tonnes to 3000 tonnes because of the floods. [Herald Sun]

B.C.’s carbon tax is a weensy $20 a tonne, or about four-and-a-half cents per litre at the gas pump. [Vancouver Sun]

All use ton (or tons) in contexts unrelated to measurement—for example:

Many people are interviewed in the series, but a dominant voice is that of Robbie Robertson, who has tons of stories. [Globe and Mail]

A Denver medical marijuana dispensary says it is literally trading a ton of joints for a ton of food. [Denver Post]

The feelings of love he’d expected to hit him like a ton of bricks when little Phoebe arrived simply didn’t come. [Mirror]

Better yet, Klugt says, her iPhone has tons of cool apps and the digital jukebox, iTunes. [Sydney Morning Herald]

45 thoughts on “Ton vs. tonne”

      • you really ARE a pathetic wanker. a tonne is worth 2204.6 lbs. the poor sod isn’t an idiot, they just typed too fast, transposed the 0 and the 4 and had a lapse of attention to catch the error. are you trying to say that you’re so fuc-ing perfect that YOU’VE never posted a spelling error or other typo like this?! FU-K OFF! you must really be an insecure cu-t with serious self esteem issues to have the need to cut others down like you have all over this page.

          • actually it didn’t. this was the culmination of a series of events. this little arrogant and egotistical cu-t made it a habit of commenting to everyone he could on this page in like manner, me included. although he expounded into greater depths of douchebaggery in my case. otherwise i’d have have ignored him and moved on.

          • You’re really REALLY taking internet business too seriously. I hope in the last eight months you’ve had a break from the keys, maybe laid on a few beaches or hiked through some national parks, and are now able to put things in perspective.

    • It is confusing because the US think that they can ignore the rest of the world.
      in America a ton is a non metric ton of 2000 non metric pounds. Tonne is a metric ton of 1000kg.

      • Although different metric systems were entertained for centuries, the modern one came into place and was put into practice in 1790, think about it…since at least as early as 1586 the idea was proposed so why 1790? “The American Revolution” or “War of independence”, whichever you prefer to call it was over and suddenly all of these European countries who had either been fighting for the colonies or the British Empire were stuck right next to each other with the realization that trade was still vital and further aggression and tension would no-doubt hurt the bottom line. So several laws, agreements and uniformities were created to foster a sense of togetherness, They may have hidden their motives or not entirely realized them at a conscious level but whatever they called it, at the end of the day it was simply manufactured peace for profits’ sake. The colonies they each respectively owned or had ties to followed suit and their trade partners as well. The United States, on the other side of the ocean, with plenty of resources and holdings didn’t need to rely on such measures to get about their daily lives without the immediate fear of war from anyone surrounding them. the same thing happened after WWII, how quickly Germany and Japan upon realizing they were screwed if they didn’t “play well with others” sought to form ties and agreements, concessions et cetera and look how they prospered. Peace is good for business, Lucien. That’s the 35th Rule Of Acquisition.

        • Seems to me that 1790 was the year of the French revolution. And the French introduced a complete metric system. Even the time was based on a metric system but that one didn’t survive the 1st republic.

          The SI is in place since 1960 to help cooperation all over the globe. 50 years is normally enough to make the transition, but the pertinent use of the imperial measurement system is working against this, which creates confusion when 2 people are talking about the same subject, but they use different premises.

      • That’s because the U.S can ignore everyone and they do. They only allow the rest of the world to entertain them as they please. People always complain about the U.S imperialistic attitude yet they’re the first ones to want to live here.

        • Well, it may be that the US cannot ignore everyone… and they learned that, when doing business (you know, that is the thing of making money and that means that you need to conform to local rules!). But that is, maybe not relevant for you, as you are living in a cocoon.

        • Yeah man. I upto the fullest agree with your viewpoint which in regards to those people, also generates an enormous part of literal philosophies and absolute acknowledgements.

  1. Tonne is an SI unit equivalent to 1000 kg and US also calls it a metric ton (always with the word metric). Ton refers to imperial units equivalent to 2000 lbs.

  2. “AMERICAN English speakers generally have no use for tonne, so
    the spelling rarely appears in U.S. publications. ELSEWHERE, FASTIDIOUS
    publications use the APPROPRIATE spellings for the units of measurement.”

    I resent this, you’re implying the way Americans spell it is “wrong”. Saying that the ‘Careful publishers’ who ‘aren’t American’ are always “correct”. It’s just a cultural difference, can’t we all just get along?

    • As far as I know, the authors of this article are actually American. I think it’s just saying that people who use the metric system are careful to distinguish between a metric tonne and an imperial ton.

    • American people have a tendency to ignore “the rest of the world”. :-)

      When you are doing a publication for the American market, American writers use “ton” and they mean long ton. Non-American writers use ton and they mean metric ton. Writers who are aware of the problem use “metric ton” or “tonne” to make clear that the correct unit can be used. For this however you need to understand the difference between a long to and a metric ton!

      • Wrong. American writers write to mean short ton, not long. We have no reason to express tonnes as we don’t use it ever except with our puppets, I mean friends in the U.K.

        • You are right. Americans are short! And yes, you are right, Americans don’t know the term “the rest of the world” :-)

        • You may have noticed that Blair has left the building.
          Our trousers are tightly fastened and we no longer bend over just because the fat yank is in the room!

    • Color, aluminium, jagwar…
      You DO get it wrong!
      You seem to take pleasure in bastardizing MY English language!
      You should look up the definition of the word ‘awesome’ too!

      • *Aluminum. Americans say and spell aluminum, not aluminium. You’re right about color and ‘jagwar’ though. Well… not really, considering Americans do pronounce the ‘u’ in jaguar as ‘oo’. So technically, you’re 66% wrong. Also, the American language often comes closer to old English than British English, because of the influence French has had on English in Great Britain. So usually the British are the ones who bastardize the English language… but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Languages evolve, they get more efficient over time. Saying that it’s a bad thing for language to be ‘bastardized’ is ignorant.

    • Yeah, well to elaboration you wrote up. This satisfied me. This opinion I would judge as an extremely-parted one from others’ who merely start extracting juices from fruits without actually examining its inner essence. A perfect comment. Rate this to the fullest!!!!! Sorry for your ass. Think I measured it wrong. Its all slim. No worry……!!!!!!!!

  3. The second example of uses “unrelated to measurement” is indeed related to measurement. If states the dispensary is “literally” trading a ton. If it’s literal, it’s not metaphorical.

    • Irritatingly, in modern usage “literally” has the secondary definition of “in effect” or “virtually”. I know, yuck. It seems pretty clear to me that the secondary meaning is being used in the example.

    • Mine, too. I was around 10 years old when SI was adopted in Canada, and being a prairie boy, I heard a lot about “tons” and “tonnes” because it’s how grain is sold/shipped/etc. So in my experience, it’s always been that:
      – a ton (pronounced “tun”) was 2000 lbs, and
      – a tonne (pronounced “tawn”) was 1000 kg.

      I remember that radio stations reporting on grain prices at the time tried to use “tonne” for awhile but because of confusion between the similar names moved on to using the phrase “metric ton”., so a metric ton is 1000 kg.

      My question, now that I’m MUCH older and am a computer analyst would be “why did SI mess around with ‘metric ton’ or ‘tonne’ and not use ‘megagram’ instead?”

      In school, when learning SI, we learned the three ‘upper’ and ‘;lower’ prefixes for units of measurement (kilo/hecto/deca, deci/centi/milli) so it wouldn’t’ve been difficult to include ‘mega’ *and ‘micro’ for that matter) in that mix. Certainly it would’ve been impossible to confuse ‘ton’ with ‘megagram’ :)

  4. 1 tonne (also known as metric ton) = exactly 1,000 kg or about 2,204.6 lb. Tonne rhymes with con and is shortened to t.

    The ton is an imperial measure and rhymes with tun.

    1 (long) ton (all current and ex imperial measures countries except the US and Canada) = 2,240 lb (so in human measures is very similar to the tonne).

    1 (short) ton (US and Canada only) = 2,000 lb (about 907 kg).

    The long ton can be further divided into 20 hundredweight (cwt), each cwt = 8 stone, each stone = 14 lb. However this is irrelevant, or should be, as all countries that used the imperial system, except the US, are now metric – but only in principle in the UK.

    Neither the short nor long ton has ascendancy over the other as both are wrong and we should all be using the metric system ! Then Brits and Americans couldn’t say the other was wrong!! Peace in our time.


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