I am writing an article on tea. I want to say that...

Tea is the most consumed _____________ after water.

The problem is tea is a beverage but water is not. So, if I come up with this sentence, it's incorrect.

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water -incorrect, because water is not a beverage.

Being a doctor, I think it's possible to have water be a beverage because when water is fortified with some other nutrients it turns into a beverage. Having said that, bottled water can be considered as a beverage but water itself is often not classified as a beverage.

Another way is...

Tea is the most consumed thing in the world after water -incorrect, because tea is not a thing.

Yet another try...

Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water -incorrect, because water is not a drink.

I'm skeptical about using drink as a noun here. I'm utterly fine with the verb drink, as you drink water.

I'm stuck on this, because they both are consumable liquids. But one is a beverage and I'm not very sure about the other. But in a common sentence, I want to include them both as 'the most consumed _______' in the world.

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    Other definitions of beverage include "drinkable liquid" (merriam webster, no exclusion of water: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beverage) or restrict to "usually not water" (Collins: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/…). – Stephie Feb 18 '15 at 10:22
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    By writing "Tea is the most consumed beverage after water," you've making it clear that you're including water in your list of drinks that can be classified as beverages – much like this dictionary does. – J.R. Feb 18 '15 at 11:46
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    Your link to Oxford Learner's Dictionary says, "any type of drink except water". This implies that water is a drink. – Tom Barron Feb 18 '15 at 14:54
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    You're being extremely pedantic. Water is, for all intents and purposes, a beverage. If your waitress says "May I take your beverage order?" and you say "Water please", she's not going to correct you. In fact, as a native English speaker I've never heard that water "isn't a beverage" until this minute. I'd suggest that this "distinction" between "beverage" and "drink" must be regional. No one I know would make such a distinction. – Calphool Feb 18 '15 at 16:07
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    Also, as long as we're being pedantic, tea is a thing – anything and everything are things. If it exists, if it is made of matter (or even if it isn't, in some cases), it's a thing. That's pretty much the most generic possible noun, which makes it a less than ideal choice (and offensive applied to a person), but tea certainly fits in the category of things. – KRyan Feb 18 '15 at 16:18

12 Answers 12


Well this is news to me that water ain't a beverage.

The Huffington Post seems to agree, if this 2013 headline is any indication:

Water is now most popular beverage in U.S., knocking soda off top spot

Or this: Drink Water Until It Becomes Your Beverage of Choice.

Not every dictionary and, believe me, not everyone speaking AmE is going to agree that water is not a beverage. (Edit: However, having thought about it, I think there is a specialized meaning of beverage that can exclude water; I'll post a separate answer for that).

Check the definitions at thefreedictionary. Some of the definitions at least hint that water can be considered a beverage.

And see Yahoo answers where almost every answer to the question Is water a beverage - my friend says no? avers that water is a beverage. Of course those are all junior high kids answering that question, but...

If you want to go with those who say it ain't, I reckon you could say drink. As far as I know water is a drink even though some folks don't classify it as a beverage.

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    +1. If I had a dollar for every time someone drew an erroneous conclusion from a single dictionary entry, I'd be rich by now. All definitions are context-dependent, and OneLook is a beautiful thing. There are times when "beverage" might mean "drinks other than water," but, as you point out here, there are plenty of other contexts where water would be included under the beverage umbrella – particularly if you pay for it. – J.R. Feb 18 '15 at 11:42
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    Read your own link in your comment. It lists bottled water as including Under FDA labeling rules, bottled water includes products labeled: Bottled water, Drinking water, Artesian water, Mineral water, Sparkling bottled water, Spring water, and Purified water. These are all HOH, no nutrients. In addition, how would you interpret the last sentence of the Huffington Post piece: "For thousands of years, water was the beverage of choice for human beings..." – user6951 Feb 18 '15 at 12:34
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    In the USA, bottled water is not generally fortified with nutrients. Bottled water is generally potable water in a bottle. Companies like Pepsi and Coke started selling plain water in bottles to cash in on what they saw as a growing market--selling plain old water in bottles rather than gallon-sized jugs. They do also sell fortified water in a bottle, but--as the article says--they do this as a speciality item that they can charge much more for, and make an even higher profit for each bottle sold. – user6951 Feb 18 '15 at 12:38
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    @MaulikV [Citation Needed] for grandiose generalizations about what Americans do or don’t drink, what is or is not put into bottled water versus tap water, and so on. Though I’ll save you time: you won’t cite those statements because they are inaccurate. Tap water is commonly drank in many municipalities (and the quality of tap water is frequently a significant contributor to housing markets), tap water is almost-always fluoridated anyway (not to mention otherwise cleaned), and bottled water is often not and advertises that it comes straight from some pristine spring somewhere. – KRyan Feb 18 '15 at 16:44
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    @δοῦλος Not to mention they were losing major amounts of money over previous years on their sugar-filled beverages as people started to realize how bad sodas are for them... they make huge amounts from their water sales to attempt to recoup lost money on sodas and other sugary beverages. – Catija Feb 18 '15 at 23:24

Water is a drink. And regardless what that dictionary says, I would happily call water a beverage in the context of this sentence. So either of:

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water

Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water

is absolutely fine. But if you're unsure, go for the second one.

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    Strongly agree. Water may have other uses in addition to being a drink or beverage, but in the context of your sentence (where the water is clearly expected to be imbibed) then it is most certainly a drink or beverage! – Bill Michell Feb 18 '15 at 11:56
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    I'd say pure water of a remarkable quality, especially if served with ice, qualifies as a "beverage" distinct from, say, lapping at a puddle on the sidewalk. – talrnu Feb 18 '15 at 20:11
  • Even water of somewhat dubious quality, should be considered a "beverage" if it won't make you sick to drink it, and if it's in a cup or other drinking or pouring-for-drinking receptacle. – neminem Feb 19 '15 at 15:55
  • FYI using the word 'beverage' instead of the word 'drink' is an Americanism. – JamesRyan Feb 20 '15 at 10:59

You've done a good job of finding a few sources which seem to exclude water from being classified as a beverage. However, for every one dictionary entry you can find that excludes water, I can probably find one that specifically includes water. Some seem to allow for some wiggle room, wisely using a word like usually or sometimes, while others make no mention of water at all. The definition seems to be fluid.

Ultimately, though, this really depends on context.

Say we work for an airline, and we are trying to figure out which beverages we need to stock on each flight. We serve drinks like orange juice, Coca-Cola, and bottled water:

enter image description here

In this scenario, I would classify the water as a beverage, because, like the other beverages on the beverage cart, it's purchased by the airline in single-serving containers, and it's also dispensed from single-serving containers. It would be silly to exclude water from this beverage study – and even sillier to worry about the beverage study being mistitled because we happen to be including bottled water in the data.

However, let's say we were trying to figure out which beverages are consumed most at a particular airport. In that case, I would include ALL of the beverages sold at the newspaper stand – which we can see includes Perrier and some other bottled water:

enter image description here

but I would NOT include water taken from the water fountains, because the data would be too hard to collect. (Furthermore, it would be impossible to differentiate which water was dispensed for consumption, and which was being used for, say, brushing your teeth or rinsing out your mouth.)

In short, in these scenarios, I would classify bottled water as a beverage, but not tap water – even though it's obvious that both can be drunk for refreshment.

If I was doing a similar beverage study at a restaurant, would I count free water as a beverage? That depends on the purpose of my study: am I trying to calculate profit, or am I trying to figure out how many cups to buy? In the former case, I exclude water; in the latter, it gets included.

So, is water a beverage? Just like the dictionaries collectively imply – sometimes water clearly is, sometimes water clearly isn't, and sometimes it's hard to say:

enter image description here

As for your sentence:

Tea is the most consumed beverage after water.

I think beverage works just fine there, and I can't think of any better word to use. If the muddiness of water-as-a-beverage bothers you, you could write it this way:

Excluding water, tea is the most consumed beverage.

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    The definition seems to be fluid. Groooooooooan. – Esoteric Screen Name Feb 19 '15 at 11:36
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    @EsotericScreenName - Well, the conflicting definitions do seem to muddy the waters :^) – J.R. Feb 19 '15 at 15:17
  • This provides good insight on the topic. +1 – Maulik V Feb 19 '15 at 15:44
  • ..but if multiple beverages are on tap, shouldn't water be considered a beverage? Ergo, tap water should sometimes be a beverage too. O_o – RLH Feb 20 '15 at 16:23
  • Was "fluid" deliberately a pun? I didn't even catch that until I read your comment. – GMA Feb 23 '15 at 13:39

As others have pointed out, some dictionaries say that "beverage" excludes water, others do not. Given that there is some ambiguity, if you simply said, "Tea is the most consumed beverage", a reader might fairly wonder, "Wait, don't people drink more water than tea? Or is he not counting water as a 'beverage'?" But if you say, "Tea is the most consumed beverage after water", then it is clear that you are including water as a beverage, so the ambiguity goes away.

I suppose if you took the dictionaries that exclude water as authoritative, you could, as others have suggested, say, "Tea is the most consumed DRINK after water." Or you could say, "Tea is the most consumed beverage -- if you don't count water as a 'beverage'."

Lots of words have this kind of ambiguity. Like the word "animal" is sometimes used to include humans and sometimes not. So if you wrote, "No animal on Earth does X", it might be unclear if you mean that humans are included. But if you said, "No animal on Earth other than humans does X" or "No animal on Earth, including humans, does X" than the ambiguity goes away. Etc.


Leaving aside the question of whether water is a beverage, and ignoring the very strange idea that water is not a drink, you nonetheless have an option open to you that accords with your definitions and is logically and gramatically correct:

Tea is the most consumed beverage, not counting water.

That sentence a) does not call water a beverage, b) does accurately place tea second in the list of most consumed potable fluids c) does not use convoluted terms like 'potable fluid'

  • Exactly what I wanted to post :-( therefore the perfect answer. – gnasher729 Feb 20 '15 at 9:50
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    -1 The sentence puts water in the same category of items being discussed as tea. Therefore, it does state that water is a beverage, albeit indirectly. – user6951 Feb 20 '15 at 11:19
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    @δοῦλος: I don't think it states that water is a beverage, but I mostly agree with you: it does presuppose that it's at least arguably a beverage. (You can't say, "Tea is the most consumed beverage, not counting bread.") So it doesn't seem compatible with the OP's water-is-boldface-not-a-beverage belief system. – ruakh Feb 21 '15 at 1:54
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    If the OP wants to ignore any possibility that water might be considered a beverage, they only have to write "Tea is the most consumed beverage" and ignore the huge amount of confusion that will generate in his readers. – DJClayworth Feb 21 '15 at 4:32
  • @δοῦλος: You are plainly wrong. The sentence says explicitely that it makes no statement about water at all. – gnasher729 Feb 21 '15 at 14:28

If you went to a venue which had a sign on the door saying 'No food or beverages allowed', would you take in a bottle of water, or not? What if it said 'No food or drinks allowed'? I had never thought about this distinction, but I can see no reason to exclude water.

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    But next time I go to a cinema and it says "No outside food and beverages allowed," I am bringing my San Pe and Maulik V's dictionary and show 'em that water ain't a beverage. :) – user6951 Feb 18 '15 at 11:38
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    δοῦλος - Your cinema comment was so funny that you made me laugh, and spit out my beverage all over my computer screen! Good thing I was only drinking water... ;^) – J.R. Feb 18 '15 at 11:50
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    Actually, you can bring a water bottle into most Cinemas, at least in the US. – aslum Feb 18 '15 at 15:06
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    @DavidRicherby I think the reason movie theaters prohibit bringing in outside food and beverages is not that they are worried about cleanliness or safety hazards, as is easily seen by the fact that they will happily sell you food and beverages to consume in the theater. It's that they don't want you to bring in food you bought at the grocery store instead of buying it from their snack counter at outrageous prices. – Jay Feb 18 '15 at 20:44
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    @Jay "Every place IS a movie theater!" Except for the movie theatre, where you have to turn your phone off! :-D – David Richerby Feb 18 '15 at 20:57

If you want to apply this logic, then you can simply state that

Tea is the most consumed beverage.

  • Agreed. And if you still want to mention water, you could do so parenthetically, perhaps also clarifying that the term "beverage" technically excludes water at the same time. Readers would certainly find it interesting. – talrnu Feb 18 '15 at 20:15
  • +1 but then there is a bunch of people who will argue...dude, it's incorrect. Water is the most consumed beverage. I want to sound neutral. That's the reason, I'm stuck! :) – Maulik V Feb 19 '15 at 4:53
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    A quick read through the comments on the question demonstrates that this will change the intended meaning for pretty much every native speaker, because beverage includes water in common usage. – Esoteric Screen Name Feb 19 '15 at 11:33

Given the pedantic nature of the question fluid or liquid would fit better but contextually they do not fit.

Regardless of dictionary definition beverage would fit the best for any native english speaker or reader.

As an alternative you could use Liquid Refreshment. Refreshment being a generalization of something that could be consumed by a human and refining that set to liquids. This raises another pedantic issue that tea may not always be a refreshment if it is only consumed for pleasure. But then the argument could be made that consuming anything refreshes you regardless if that was the intent.


You are being misled by both of the references you are listing - or rather, you're being far too pedantic in interpreting them.

While it is true that beverage tends to be used more often to describe drinks more interesting than water, water is not excluded from what can be a beverage. Many other dictionaries will agree.

Interestingly, googling "Beverage Definition" returns google's own definition: "a drink, especially one other than water." Which may be the source of your confusion, noting that Water is absent from the list of beverages on Wikipedia.

Beverage can, and often is, used to define a drink that is not water, simply because water is so ubiquitous that it's taken for granted. But water is a beverage, it is a drink, and the only reason it is sometimes excluded from those definitions is because it is already assumed to be both of those things.


The question of whether a liquid is a beverage would depend, to my ear, on whether the liquid is intended for oral consumption. Most potable liquids are produced primarily for the purpose of oral consumption, while most water is used for other purposes. Further, the result of adding concentrated substances to water will often be described in terms of the added substance (e.g. a mixture of concentrated orange juice and water will be described as reconstituted orange juice, rather than as water with concentrated orange juice added) but such description would be rare with other liquids.

If a liquid which happens to be potable is produced or placed in a container for some purpose other than oral consumption, it would not generally be considered a beverage. Likewise, water which is/was clearly destined for oral consumption would be considered a beverage. The fact that most water is used for purposes other than oral consumption means that most water should not be considered a beverage, but the term beverage should not be taken to exclude water which is consumed orally.


Drink is just fine as a noun.

Beverage to my ear implies "something which is brewed" (beer, tea). This may be a British thing. So, to me the term does not cover water, soda, juice, squash, smoothies, etc.

[Edit: However, this interpretation of the word is unsupported by etymology or any dictionary or usage guide I can find. Beverage apparently implies "drink", nothing more. I have never heard it used in this way. But Googling, I can find many counter examples, particularly in menus with a section for "beverages".

In particular, the Beverage Standards Association of the UK specifically includes "Water" as a section on its website, along with "Smoothies, Freppes and Juice": http://www.beveragestandardsassociation.co.uk/ ]

Liquid works for me, and I don't understand the downvotes on that one. Lava and mercury are also liquids, yes, but there's nothing wrong with the term in the phrase "most commonly drunk liquid".

Refreshment, or Liquid refreshment, could work, too.

And finally, there's Potable, which can work as a noun as well as an adjective.

On another note, consume feels a little weird and formal here - maybe consider drink, or perhaps imbibe.


You can use,

Tea is the most consumed fluid in the world after water.

Both of them are fluid and the term fluid can be used when it comes to drinking.

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    The mind reels. Yes, but fluids also refer to hundreds of things in a, um, fluid state that are not drunk, such as gasoline, ink, transmission fluid, urine--okay, I've heard that some people drink urine, but it doesn't make fluid any more attractive. – user6951 Feb 18 '15 at 10:56
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    Yes, but that does not matter because we are filtering all those other things out because of the word consumed. Ink,Gasoline,etc does not come under fluid that are consumed by Human. And in the sentence we are talking about fluids that are consumed by Human. So Gasoline,etc are ruled out because of the word Consumed. Its the same as thing which can be many things that you do not eat or drink too. But consumed thing rules out all other unconsumable things. – Venkata Krishna Feb 18 '15 at 11:01
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    If I walked into a grocery store in the USA and asked what kinds of fluids they had in stock to drink they would look at me weird. Not so if I asked them what kinds of beverages or drinks they had. I've never walked into a restaurant, set down and had a waitress/waiter ask me what fluid would I like with my meal. The word fluid is not appropriate in this context. – user6951 Feb 18 '15 at 11:29
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    @VenkataKrishna: Unfortunately, now you run into multiple senses of the word consume. It can mean "to eat or drink", but it can also mean "to buy" or "to use in such a way that it cannot be used again". Depending on your sense of the word, gasoline is consumed when people ("consumers") buy it, or when an engine burns it up. So gasoline is a fluid that is consumed, and I'm pretty sure there is a lot more of it than tea. – Nate Eldredge Feb 18 '15 at 18:52
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    I don't think fluids works in the generic sense requested by the O.P., but there are contexts where fluids can be used: "When you have a cold, drink plenty of fluids," e.g., or, "Marathoners should drink plenty of fluids during the race." – J.R. Feb 19 '15 at 1:17

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