Last week on the Bespeaking blog, we talked about basic shapes in English. And we realized that when you’re learning a language, sometimes you don’t know the simplest (most simple) things. Teachers don’t always focus on things like shapes or measurements that people use in their everyday life! With this in mind, we decided to take a look at measurements in English this week. Knowing how to measure things, especially in your second language, comes in handy (is useful) all the time!
How do you talk about measurements in English? What do these measurements actually (in reality) mean? As always, Bespeaking is here to help! Check out more about measurements in English below…
One thing I’ve heard Germans say quite often is, “How big are you,” or “How high are you?” or “He’s really big.” What they’re talking about here is how tall (or how far off the ground) someone is, or their height. Height is a measurement of how tall something is. Think about a skyscraper in New York City. If you want to know how tall it is, you can ask about its height. Height is used for things that are connected to the ground, but are tall, such as people, buildings, trees, flowers, etc. If you ever want to talk about how tall something is, ask about its height…or maybe measure it for yourself! In the United States, we measure our height with feet and inches. Most of the world, however, uses meters, etc.
Do you want to know how heavy something is? Then you want to know its weight! Weight is how heavy something is, or how much mass it has, if you want to be scientific (with a science mindset) about it. You may have a scale (tool to measure weight) in your bathroom so you can see how heavy you are. Or maybe you lift weights (heavy pieces of metal used to workout) to help yourself become stronger! If you buy meat at the butcher counter at your grocery store, you also order it by weight (200g, 1 lb, etc). When you think about how heavy something is, you’re trying to figure out its weight.
Confession (statement admitting guilt) time: I hate swimming in the ocean by myself. I always have to have someone around me when I’m swimming in the ocean. This is because I’m afraid of how deep the ocean is! When it comes to how far down something goes, you’re thinking about depth. The ocean, for example, is very deep, meaning that it goes really far down! A hole in your backyard has depth (is deep), or you can go deep into a cave. If it’s something you can go down into, you’re going to want to know its depth. What’s the deepest you’ve ever been?
A very common measurement in English is length. Length is a measurement of something from one end to the other. This is different from height, by the way! Just because something has length, does not mean that it’s tall. A snake has length, for example, but not much height. Your hair has length. Clothing also has length! Think about a time that you bought a pair of pants or a dress, and you thought it went too far down your body. In that case, this clothing had too much length — it was too long, so you had to make it shorter. Can you name anything else that has length?
Another measurement of height is altitude. Altitude is only used for things that are very, very high! Altitude is used to talk about how high a mountain is, for example, or how far up a plane is in the air. If you’re speaking about altitude, you’re talking about how high something is in relation to (compared to) sea level (the level of the top of the ocean). For example, Colorado is a very mountainous (has a lot of mountains) state. Some people who visit Colorado are not used to (not accustomed to) how high cities are in Colorado. They’re not used to the altitude. They may even feel sick because of the change in height! Altitude is usually used in geography (the study of the Earth’s physical features) and when talking about how high a plane is in the sky. Have you ever been somewhere with a high altitude?
These are just some of the basic measurements in English! Would you like to know more? Share with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and can’t believe how high some trees grow to be!