Cup vs. Glass – What’s the Difference? (Helpful Examples)

Some people think “Cup” and “Glass” are synonyms. Are they, though? Obviously, both words describe drinking vessels. But I think we’d all agree those vessels aren’t the same, exactly.

Let’s try and find out what exactly each word means, and how we can use them in sentences.

Cup vs. Glass – What’s the Difference?

Basically, “Glass” refers to a vessel or receptacle made of, well, “Glass”. It has no handles and is translucent. “Cup”, however, refers to virtually any drinking vessel (“Glass” ones included, actually). “Cups” can be made with any material, and may or may not have handles.

cup vs glass

Take a look at the following examples:

  • Can I have a glass of water, please?
  • Would you like a glass of wine?
  • I fancy a cup of tea.
  • Bertha has many cups on the shelf, in all shapes and colors.

A person would never offer another a “Cup” of wine, simply because wine is usually served on a “Glass”. At the same time, we wouldn’t say Bertha has “Glasses” of all shapes and colors. To say “Cups” leads us to understand that she had all sorts of vessels (with “Glass” likely included).

Cup

A “Cup” is a drinking container. Sounds simple, and it is. Its shape may vary, as well as the material it’s made of and the color. It’s also used for many different types of drinks.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, a “Cup” is “small, round, often with a handle used for drinking tea, coffee, etc.”Also, the word “Cup” is also used to describe a container that holds slightly less than a quarter of a liter of liquid, used to measure recipes.

Those are examples of when to use “Cup” in a sentence:

  1. Emmanuel used coffee cups for any drink but coffee.
  2. Josie asked me if I’d like to get a cup of green tea.
  3. Mark asked for a cup of coffee, but we had just run out.
  4. Bertha bought this super cute cup with flower designs.
  5. The recipe required three cups of flour.

The idea is that a “Cup” is a small container made so a person can drink from it. If this “Cup” were to be made of “Glass”, or in some cases another translucent material, it could be called a “Glass”.

Think about it this way: a “Glass” is always a “Cup”, but a “Cup” may not always be a “Glass”.

Glass

“Glass” is a drinking container made of “Glass”. It’s translucent and has no handles. Sometimes, translucent containers in general (made of plastic, for example) are called “Glass” as well, because of the resemblance in appearance.

The Cambridge Dictionary confirms that “Glass” can stand for the material “Glass” (which can be used to make a variety of objects) and the container, used to drink.

Those are examples of when to use “glass” in a sentence:

  1. Mark told us he’d love a glass of beer right now.
  2. He drained his glass in less than five seconds.
  3. Sandra never understood why her mom had so many fancy glasses in the cabinet.
  4. Unfortunately, that glass cracked.
  5. Do you need a glass of water?

“Glass” is frequently used to refer to the objects used as a drinking container (“glasses in the cabinet”) or in connection to types of drink (as seen in the sentences, beer and water, for example).

Which Is Used the Most?

Do people prefer to say “Cup” or “Glass”? Looking at the graph below, from Google Ngram Viewer we’ll have the answer.

cup vs glass usage

According to the graph, “Glass” is used more often than “Cup”. Perhaps, the reason is “Cup” (although representing a larger number of drinking containers) is very attached to the thought of drinking tea and coffee.

“Glass” often is connected to a larger variety of drinks, and that could explain why it’s mentioned more often.

Why do you think “Glass” appears more than “Cup” in common language?

Final Thoughts

It’s quite possible that no one would give you a hard time if you interchange “Glass” and “Cup” in a sentence. However, it’s useful to know what each word means. Use “Glass” every time you refer to a container made of “Glass”, and choose “Cup” for all other drinking containers.