In today's automobile-ridden world, real inns are fast dying out. The few that are left function primarily as pubs. In North America, inns are usually alcohol-serving restaurants that have never provided lodging or serviced the needs of travellers. In Europe, it is the provision of accommodation, if anything, that now deferentiates inns from taverns, alehouses and pubs. These later tended only to supply alcohol (although in the UK the conditions of their licence sometimes required them to have a nominal supply of food and soft drinks). Inns tend to be grander and more long-lived establishments. Famous London examples include the George and the Tabard. There is however no formal distinction between an inn and other kinds of establishment, and many pubs will use the name "inn", either simply because they are long established, or to summon up a particular kind of image.
The original functions of an inn are now usually split among separate establishments, such as hotels, lodges, motels, pubs, restaurants, and taverns.
The German words for "inn", "innkeeper", and "inkeeping" illustrate the historical importance of inns. An innkeeper is Wirt (a host), the inn itself is a Wirtshaus (a host's house), and innkeeping is Wirtschaft. The last word literally means hosting or hospitality, but is also used to mean economy and business in general. In the Greek language, the word for economy (oikos "house" + nomos "law") is actually identical to house-keeping.
The Inns of Court were originally ordinary inns where lawyers met to do business, but have become institutions of the legal profession in London