The gravitational foot-pound-second system is a system of mechanical units. The foot is the base unit of length or distance, the pound is chosen to be a unit of force, and the second is the base unit of time. All other mechanical quantities, and specifically mass, are expressed in terms of combinations of these three units. In gravitational systems, Newton's second law is expressed as F = ma, but since force is the basic unit rather than mass, it must be written in the form m = F/a, so that if the unit of length or distance is denoted by L, the unit of force by F, and the unit of time by T, the unit of mass becomes a derived unit of dimensions FL−1T2, in this case pound·second2/foot, which is known as the slug.

Three approaches to mass and force units[1][2]

v · d · e


force, length, time weight, length, time mass, length, time
Force (F) F = m·a = w·a/g F = m·a/gc = w·a/g F = m·a = w·a/g
Weight (w) w = m·g w = m·g/gc ≈ m w = m·g
Acceleration (a) ft/s2 m/s2 ft/s2 m/s2 ft/s2 gal m/s2 m/s2
Mass (m) slug hyl, also called “metric slug” or “TME” lbm kg lb g t kg
Force (F) lb kp lbF kp pdl dyn sn N
Pressure (p) lb/in2 at PSI atm pdl/ft2 Ba pz Pa

This system is the most common one used by engineers in the United States, and therefore is often described along with SI in physics textbooks.

See also


  1. Lindeburg, Michael, Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam 
  2. Wurbs, Ralph A, Fort Hood Review Sessions for Professional Engineering Exam,, retrieved October 26, 2011 
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