Europeans use the metric system to measure things. This is the system that uses metres and kilometres to measure distances and litres to measure petrol, for example. In the USA and Great Britain people still measure distances in miles and buy petrol by the gallon. This is an article from an American magazine about the subject, dated 1986.

In 1976 the government announced that they were thinking of changing all signs on the nation’s roads from miles to kilometers. After receiving nearly 5000 letters of protest, they quickly gave up the plan.

Although Congress in 1975 ordered a slow change to metric weights and measures, nothing seems harder to do than to get the Americans to use the metric system, which is used by all the world except Brunei, Burma, North and South Yemen and the U.S.A. A study done in 1977 showed that more than 2/3 of the American people were against the metric system.

A few years ago the government thought they could get citizens to use the metric system within ten years. Now they do not expect it to be completely accepted before the year 2000. Experts say that when young people who have learned the metric system in school become adults and enter the working world, the change will really happen. In its efforts to save money, the government has cut down on money for programs supporting the metric system.

But a few major companies, including General Motors, John Deere and IBM, are changing to metric because of their foreign markets. Still, major aircraft companies like Boeing continue to measure in feet and inches, although they sell many planes abroad. One critic of the metric system objects to it because, he says, “You can’t imagine a tenth very well, but you can imagine a quarter or a half of something.”

Adds Leslie Seals, a member of Americans Against the Metric System, “Why should people be forced to use a system they don’t like?” Others say that the change would cause some language problems. What would happen to sayings like, “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.”?

Can you imagine saying, “Give him 2.5 centimeters and he’ll take 1.6 kilometers.”? Like their colleagues abroad, US scientists have long used the metric system, and at least three dozen states insist that the metric system be taught in their schools. And although many American sports still measure in yards, many joggers now speak of doing their “10 Ks” (for 10 kilometers) every weekend.

Wine lovers have also learned the new system quickly. When the wine industry changed to the metric system a few years ago, people were happy to find that a liter of wine was a little more than the old quart bottle they were used to.



Mark the best choice.

1. In 1976 the government .

a) changed all the signs on the nation’s roads

b) considered changing all the signs on the roads to kilometers

c) protested against changing all the signs on the roads to kilometers

d) wanted to mention kilometers as well as miles on the signs

2. The metric system .

a) is used by all other major countries in the world

b) is only used in a few small countries and the US

c) is going to be used in all major countries by 1995

d) will be used in the US by 1995
3. Experts think that .

a) Americans have been using the metric system for ten years

b) 2/3 of all the Americans will use the metric system before the year 2000

c) the children who learn the metric system at school will be the ones to make the change

d) young people who learn the metric system at school don’t see its advantages

4. A few major companies .

a) are using the metric system

b) are cutting the money they allot for metric programmes

c) save money by using the metric system

d) use both systems


5. One critic objects to the metric system because* he thinks .

a) the metric system is too difficult to teach

b) it’s easy to divide something in half but not into tenths

c) teachers don’t know it themselves

d) the government should change the language too


6. Scientists in the US .

a) have never used the metric system

b) haven’t used the metric system very long

c) use the metric system because it is used abroad

d) don’t like their colleagues abroad using the metric system

7. Joggers and wine lovers .

a) have already started using the metric system

b) still like the old system

c) are having lots of problems with the metric system

d) are proud of having learned the system

8. Wine lovers liked the change to the metric system because

a) there is less wine in a bottle now

b) the bottles are more expensive

c) there is more wine in a bottle now

d) the bottles are much cheaper now

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