What is the difference between a pub and a bar?

Based on this chat between two colleagues I could say bars and pubs are different in meaning.

A: Looks like we're going to a pub

B: Easier to get to the bar at a pub

A : true. cheaper too


3 Answers 3


Pub and bar are synonyms, both names for an establishment that serves alcoholic drinks. (They also have non-alcoholic options.) Tavern is another word that means more or less the same thing.

Pub and bar can be used interchangeably, but pub implies something in the British style, often with full meals available, whereas bar sounds more American, and I picture a bar as having fewer food options than a pub - perhaps only limited finger-foods. Pubs will (almost) always have several different beers, including some on tap, probably some ciders, and then a range of harder options. Some bars have the same options as a pub, but some specialise in certain types of drinks, for example there are vodka bars and wine bars. Tavern sometimes implies a low-class pub. Of course there are many exceptions to these generalisations.

B: Easier to get to the bar at a pub

What's confusing you in that sentence is that bar has a secondary meaning: it is also the word for the counter at which the drinks are served. Some restaurants have that sort of bar, and if you arrive before your table is ready they may seat you at the bar for a pre-dinner drink.

So when your colleague said it is easier to get to the bar at the pub they mean that they find it easier to get through the crowd to the bar (counter) to order their drinks. Perhaps your local bar is really crowded and busy, but your local pub is more relaxed.

  • 2
    Pub and bar are not synonyms in British usage. As you say, the bar is the counter across which beer is served. A pub will contain at least one, often two bars. There are plenty of other buildings, e.g. theatres, that have bars. They are not pubs.
    – Chenmunka
    May 27, 2016 at 8:05
  • @Chenmunka - I'm not British, but my understanding is that both terms are used in Britain even though pub is certainly the more common term - though they do have establishments that advertise themselves as bars rather than pubs. Here in Australia people tend to say pub too. And yes, I gave another example in my answer of a place that may contain a bar (restaurants). I didn't say that any place containing a bar is a pub.
    – nnnnnn
    May 27, 2016 at 8:12
  • I agree with everything you said except the first sentence of the answer - synonyms. Yes there are establishments here describing themselves as bars not pubs, they tend to be more modern buildings, or within larger buildings, and don't offer food.
    – Chenmunka
    May 27, 2016 at 8:25

Pub is more British. It's a place for buying, drinking alcohols, and a small amount of food can also be offered. In Britain, people usually watch footbal games in the pubs.

Bar is specifically a place for buying alcohols in a club or pub.

Also, In America, they call it Bar instead of pub


Actually, the word "bar" refers to the counter upon which the drinks are served. The "barrier" is between you on one side, and the bartender and her cache on the other. The word "pub" comes from "public House," which is what taverns & inns were originally called in the 18th century in both America & England. Here is information with primary sources to explain it in further detail: https://passionforthepast.blogspot.com/2015/07/colonial-travel-taverns-pulse-of-18th.html

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