fbpx Skip to Content

9 Key Differences between a Pub and a Bar

9 Key Differences between a Pub and a Bar

Sharing is caring!

While pubs and bars are both known as licensed drinking establishments, there are some interesting differences between them.

So, if you like good food and drinks, and you want to get into the nitty-gritty of this topic, I highly suggest that you read until the end of this post.

But before we do that, let’s have a look at a quick answer to our question today.


What is the difference between a “pub” and a “bar”?

The difference between a pub and a bar is mostly brought by naming conventions between British and American English. The word “pub” creates a more British impression, while “bar” is more American. On top of that, pubs are generally used for dining and even accommodation purposes, whereas bars are mainly recreational in function.


“Pub” vs. “Bar” in a nutshell

Do you want to go to a “pub” or a “bar”? Just to be clear, we are neither talking about a baby bear nor a steel rod here today.

A baby bear is actually called a “cub” (not a “club”), while the latter is more of an area where food and drinks are served to guests.

So, what exactly is a “pub”? How is different from a “bar”? Is a pub simply a bar?

A “pub” is a place where you can hang out with your friends and family, drink beverages, and dine out – pretty much like what we can do in a “bar.”

Despite the crossover, though, we would notice some amusing differences that, most likely, only native speakers of English understand very well.

Flipping the pages a couple of centuries back, history would tell us that the word “pub” actually started as an abbreviation or “short form” for “public house.”

While “pub” is originally an English word, “bar” isn’t. The word “bar” can be terraced back to its Old French and Greek roots “barre” and “baros,” respectively. 

The word “pub” is what we would most likely hear from  British English speakers. Meanwhile, the word “bar” is something we would most likely hear from American English speakers.

Of course, neither of the two language communities would misinterpret what you mean when you choose to use one over the other.

Essentially, the word “bar” is also more commonly used across the world than the word “pub.” This is because “bar” bears several more meanings or senses than “pub.”

“Bar” has several meanings when used as a noun and even as a verb. But, the meaning of “pub” does not drastically change when used in either of the two mentioned parts of speech.

So much about the grammatical whatnots, let us now go to the ten key differences between a pub and a bar.


9 Key Differences Between a “Pub” and a “Bar”

People are so curious these days that they ask things like “What’s the difference between a restaurant and a cafe?” to “What’s the difference between a birthday and an anniversary?” online.

Truth be told, these questions are really helpful in making the English language more understandable and accessible to people across the globe.

The differences between a pub and a bar can be explained not only through the eyes of language studies but also through history, geography, architecture, law, and so on.

By the way, here’s a quick tip for you: If you ever get confused in real life, just call both these places “taverns” to avoid getting in trouble.


1. “Pub” is more British, “Bar” is more American

The first main difference between a pub and a bar would be naming conventions. This is particularly true between the two largest English-speaking communities in the world.

If we were to strictly distinguish, the word “pub” could evoke a more British impression, while the word “bar” could give out a more American feeling.

But of course, this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t find pubs in the US and bars in the UK. We just have to take note that variation in language use is a natural event.

You may also notice the same conventional gap in the difference between the words “wholistic” and “holistic” in the UK and the US.

UK pubs are linked to the words “alehouses,” “inns,” and “salons.” Whereas, bars in the USA are more associated with other terms like “tippling houses” and “saloon.”

But then again, you might as well say “tavern” instead of “pub” or “bar” if you are unsure how to call the place where you’re going.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a “pub” actually means “hotel,” which would apparently be more suitable for the definition of “public house.”

So, if you ever find yourself in Australia one day, you had better be careful of using this word – not unless you’re actually looking for a temporary place to stay.


2. Some pubs offer accommodation, but bars don’t

Historically, the word “pub” was mainly used to differentiate “public” from “private” houses in the UK. These public places include alehouses, inns, and salons (also “saloons”).

That said, pubs were known to be used by people not only for drinking purposes but also for accommodation and regular dining.

Meanwhile, in the USA, bars have always been mainly used for drinking, eating, and playing indoor sports. From this angle, we can say that bars are mainly used for recreational purposes.

These days, British society mainly sees pubs as they were before – a place for calming down. In the US, however, bars have already evolved to cater to even more leisurely activities.

Comedy bars, sports bars, and dance bars or “nightclubs” are just some of the most common types of bars we would see in the USA these days.

Despite these historical changes, both pubs and bars had something in common back then – they were places used to quench the thirst of soldiers or legionary troops that were passing by.


3. Relax in a pub, get wasted in a bar

In terms of how a pub and war work to serve guests, both generally offer food and drinks. But, you would more likely find regular meals in a pub but snacks in a bar.

To set an even clearer distinction, a pub is where you would more likely want to bring your family, but a bar is where you would more likely want to hang out with your friends.This is because a pub offers a more homely atmosphere than a bar – you can even set up a business meeting in a pub if you want to.

British pubs are mainly used as meet-up places for all kinds of people – businesspeople. family, friends, and even pets if one wishes to.

On the other hand, a bar is definitely where you would most likely just want to express yourself as freely as you can and have fun.


4. Eat lunch or dinner in a pub, but eat snacks in a bar

Even though both pubs and bars offer food and drinks, there are some differences in the selection of meals and beverages they serve.

Pubs mainly offer a wider variety of food, while bars offer a wider selection of drinks. Having said that, your intention matters before deciding to go to either of the two places.

If you want to meet someone or a group of people for a regular lunch or dinner, you had better go to nice a pub in your city.

But, if you want to meet someone or a group of people up for a chat over a smaller meal, then you should go to a bar instead.

If you wish to go pubbing in the UK, you should expect to find a selection of beer and ale from Australia, Ireland, and Germany. Wine may also be a good choice if not the ones mentioned.

In US bars, however, you should expect to find more selection of local or regional beer products. If not, you may also want to go for cocktails instead.


5. Tip the bartender in a bar, but keep your money in a pub

Although the tipping culture is quite seen in a positive light most of the time, you had better be careful with this act before you decide to go to either a pub or a bar.

Needless to say, the country or location of the pub or bar where you’re going also matters a lot in terms of tipping.

To set a line between the two, you had better offer a tip to a bartender or server at a bar in the US but not at a pub in the UK.

While tipping is attractive in the US, this practice may raise people’s eyebrows in the UK. In other words, tipping is generally polite in the US but insulting in the UK.

Since the act of tipping is more of a national-level cultural practice, the default process is to mainly consider which country you are in.

This also suggests that deciding on whether to give a tip to your bartender or waitstaff on an establishment-level should not be done.


6. Serve yourself in a pub but not in a bar

Self-service is practiced more in British society, and waiting to be served is more common within the US boundaries. 

So, you should not get surprised if no one serves you your drink in a UK pub. This norm is largely connected to the tipping culture explained earlier, which also makes a lot of sense.

In the UK, what you need to do instead is to order a drink at the counter, pay for it, wait for it to get done, and bring it to your table.

If you go to a UK pub with your friends, one of you should order what you need at the counter, and the rest should look for an available table. 


7. Pubs open and close earlier than bars

Both pubs and bars operate more or less the same number of hours. However, as most pubs serve regular meals, you can expect them to open and close earlier than bars.

While UK pubs are mainly open from morning or midday until around midnight, bars in the US are open from midday or afternoon until around or after midnight.

In the same vein, as bars are used mainly for recreational purposes, it follows that they also open and close later than pubs. 

Of course, as state rules also apply in these scenarios, it is advised to call the pub or bar in advance or ask someone who knows the place to know the exact operating hours.


8. Present your ID in a US bar but not necessarily in a UK pub

The legal drinking age in the UK is 18 and 21 in the USA. So, it follows that a physically young-looking bargoer in the USA may have to present an ID before getting in.

Many people might think that the voting age correlates with the drinking age. But, the drinking age in the US might as well be considered an interesting legal glitch.

Of course, the reason behind this is to control road accidents and bar fights – not to mention that horrible hangover that could last a day or two after a night of heavy drinking.


9. Dress down at a pub, dress up at a bar

As local pubs generally offer a more cozy ambiance, wearing casual outfits is quite a common thing to do, especially if you go to your nearest pub at midday.

If you decide to go later to a pub in the evening, though, that should prompt you to do better than a pair of jeans and a shirt.

In a bar, however, you may want to dress up a bit because most bargoers may also do the same. Again, this goes back to the highly recreational purpose of the establishment.

Dressing up is particularly suggested if you want to go to a dance bar, or more precisely a nightclub, in the United States.


Frequently Asked Questions on “Difference between a ‘Pub’ and a ‘Bar’”


Are a pub and a bar the same?

A pub and a bar are mostly the same because they are both establishments licensed to serve food and alcoholic beverages. However, a pub offers a cozy atmosphere, while a bar offers a leisurely ambiance. In other words, you go to a pub to relax, but you go to a bar to have fun. 


What is a pub restaurant?

A pub restaurant is an establishment that serves a wide selection of food along with drinks. This means that you can have your main meal such as lunch or dinner in a pub restaurant if you do not intend to go drinking.


How is a club different from a pub and a bar?

People go to a club mostly to drink and dance rather than drink and dine. Drinking and dining are the main purposes of both pubs and bars. However, while a pub mostly offers regular meals, a bar, on the other hand mostly offers snack food.



Establishment names evolve according to how they are used by people. This clearly suggests that language is alive and, thus, it thrives with us.

Hope this article helped you today. Join us again next time for more interesting language-related whatnots.