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Measurements

from English Grammar Today

Area: length, width, depth and height

We use the nouns length, width, depth and height and the adjectives long, wide, deep and high to talk about area and size:

A:

What length is the pool at the sports club?

B:

Eighteen metres, I think.

A:

And what about the depth?

B:

It’s not very deep, maybe a metre.

The island is 11 miles long and 5 miles wide.

We were travelling at a height of 10,000 metres above sea level.

The statue is 3 metres high.

The zoo insists on the mammals having a pool at least 10 metres deep, 30 metres wide and 150 metres long.

We can use by instead of long and wide:

The island is 11 miles by 5 miles.

Tall or high?

We use tall for people, buildings and things that grow. Otherwise we use high:

She’s very tall for her age.

Not: She’s very high for her age.

The Burj Dubai will be the world’s tallest tower.

The plants were two metres tall.

High ceilings are common in Georgian houses.

They built high walls around the garden.

Weight and volume

We use the verb weigh to measure weight:

The engine is designed to take minimum space and weighs 55 kg.

We buy things (fruit, vegetables, flour, etc.) by the kilo/pound, etc:

We buy rice by the kilo, which works out cheaper.

We use the verb hold to indicate volume:

The bath holds 500 litres before it overflows.

Frequency, speed, time

We use many different expressions to describe frequency, speed and time. Here are some of them:

Frequency

[from a brochure describing a holiday villa]

Linen is changed weekly and the villa is cleaned twice a week.

Speed

Each time you fill the bath, the water flows in at the rate of 15 litres per minute through the cold tap and 12 litres per minute through the hot tap (when they are fully turned on).

The traffic moves at a fast pace; a speed of over one hundred kilometres an hour is not difficult. (or … 100 kilometres per hour.)

Time

You could hire the boats by the hour, and so they took one and rowed on the lake.

Warning:

We use a/an or per when we talk about prices or times in relation to weights, speed and other times, not the:

This cheese is £12.50 a kilo. (or £12.50 per kilo)

Not: … £12.50 the kilo

The speed limit in towns in the UK is 30 miles per hour. (or 30 miles an hour)

Not: … 30 miles the hour.

It costs 20 pounds an hour to rent a boat on the lake.

You will find tables of weights and measures in a good learner’s dictionary.

(“Measurements” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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