Teaching English

How to Describe Dimensions of an Object in English

Learn how to accurately describe object dimensions in English and enhance your communication skills by using dimension terminology correctly.
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In this blog post, we are going to learn how to talk about the size of an object and all the different measurements of an object. 

Let’s dive in!

PART #1 

Video tutorial

In part 1, you can watch the video tutorial we have prepared on how to describe the dimensions of a project in English.

PART #2 

Measurement systems

In part 2, we will learn two measurement systems that are commonly used when describing objects.

When we are describing the size of an object, we use measurements. There are two common measurement systems: the Metric System and the Imperial System.

In the United States, for example, they use the imperial system, and in the UK, they use both. However, most countries in the world use the Metric System.

The table below shows some of the differences between the two systems.

Describing dimensions: Measurement systems. The Imperial system versus the metric system. A tutorial by up2dateskills.

The Metric System

The most common units to describe objects using the Metric System are the meter, which we can abbreviate with an ‘m‘; the centimeter, which we abbreviate with ‘cm‘; and the millimeter, which we abbreviate using ‘mm‘. 

1 m = 100 cm = 1000 mm

Inside 1 meter, there are 100 centimeters, and there are 1,000 millimeters.

The units ‘meter’, ‘centimeter’, and ‘millimeter’ are just three examples because there are other larger units and smaller units in the Metric System.

The Imperial System

In the Imperial System, we use feet and inches for small measurements. We use ‘ft‘ to abbreviate the word feet, and the word inches can be abbreviated with ‘in‘. If you are not familiar with these measurement units, it can be confusing. To simplify this for you, we can say that an inch is a smaller unit, and a foot is a larger unit.

1 ft = 12 in

There are 12 inches in 1 foot. Feet and inches are just two examples because there are other larger units and smaller units in the Imperial System too. Since larger units are not commonly used to describe small objects, we are not going to discuss them in this article.

The Metric System Versus the Imperial System

For reference, let’s compare the two measurement systems. Let’s convert 1 meter into feet:

1 m ≈ 3.28 ft

1 meter is approximately equal to 3.28 feet.

We have just seen the basics of these two measurement systems. Now let’s move to part 3.

PART #3 

Keywords

In part 3, we are going to talk about a few keywords that we need to understand when we are describing the dimensions of an object.

Describing dimensions - L for length W for width H for height - at up2dateskills blog

Measurements can be confusing, but the pictures on this page might help you understand what these letters actually refer to when we are talking about objects.

Length

Length tells us how long an object is. The word ‘long‘ can also be used to talk about this specific measurement.

Width

Width tells us how wide the object is. So, we can also use the word ‘wide‘ to talk about this other measurement here.

Height

Height tells us how high or how tall the object is. So the words ‘high‘ and ‘tall‘ can also be used to describe the object.

Describing dimensions - L for length - long W for width wide H for height high or tall - at up2dateskills blog

The words on the left are nouns, but the words on the right are adjectives.
When we are building sentences, nouns and adjectives can’t be used in the same way. That’s why this table is important. 

These words are commonly used to talk about the dimension of small objects, but we will see some more words throughout this article.

PART #4 

Talking about dimensions

In part 4, we will learn how to make sentences to describe the dimensions of a product.

This cardboard box is the object that we are going to describe. We have three measurements: 50 cm x 38 cm x 40 cm.

When you see the measurements like this, you can say: 

Describing dimensions - Shipping boxes - at up2dateskills blog

KEY PHRASES

So, instead of ‘x’ /ɛks/ or ‘times’ we say ‘by’ and we don’t need to repeat the word centimeters because the measurement unit is always the same.

But what do these numbers actually refer to?

The standard order for listing the dimensions of an object is: length x width x height.

You may also come across dimensions listed in a different order and that is why understanding dimensions is so confusing.

Since these measurements are indicated in the standard order, these numbers show you that the box is 50 cm long, 38 cm wide and 40 cm tall.

So we can also say: 

Describing dimensions - Shipping box - L for length W for width H for height - at up2dateskills blog

KEY PHRASES

Let’s write some additional sentences.

Nouns

Length

Width

Height

Adjectives

Long

Width

Tall (high)

Although the picture only shows data to describe the length, the width and the height of the shipping box, there are other measurements which are commonly used to describe shipping boxes, such as cardboard thickness and weight.

Let’s see some sentences that you can use to talk about these specifications.

For reference, here is the information we need:

Cardboard thickness: 4 mm

Weight: 200 g

 

Just like with the previous words, you can use nouns or adjectives to specify the weight of a box and the thickness of the cardboard used to make a box.

Nouns

Thickness

Weight

Adjectives

Thick

Heavy

When talking about weight, instead of saying ‘The box is 200 g in weight.‘ or ‘The box is 200 g heavy.‘, you can also say:

Let me just remind you that the word ‘weighs‘ is not a noun nor an adjective. It is actually a form of the verb ‘weigh‘. Notice that, unlike the adjective (‘weight’), the verb weigh has no ‘t‘.

Finally, let’s see some examples to help you understand the concept of depth when we are discussing measurements.

Depth can be used to measure a type of vertical distance usually for underground measurements.

One of the most common everyday examples is the depth of a swimming pool or any body of water, such as a river, a lake or a sea.

The depth of a swimming pool is measured from the surface of the water to the bottom of the swimming pool. 

Describing dimensions - Swimming pool Depth - at up2dateskills blog

The swimming pool in the picture above has two different depths because it has a deep end and a shallow end.

Let’s see how we could describe it.

Nouns

Depth

Adjectives

Deep

Depth can also be used to measure three-dimensional shapes such as this piece of furniture.

Describing dimensions - Depth of 3D shapes - at up2dateskills blog

To measure furniture, we don’t use the same measurements that we used for the box.

When we are measuring furniture, the definition of depth can sometimes be unclear because it can be confused with other measurements such as width and height.

Describing dimensions - Depth of Bookcase - at up2dateskills blog
Describing dimensions - Width versus Depth - at up2dateskills blog

The bookcase above is 80 by 30 by 106 cm. 80 cm is the width of the bookcase; the depth of the bookcase is 30 cm; and it measures 106 in height. So, when we are talking about furniture, the depth shows how far back the piece of furniture goes. It’s a front-to back measurement.

Let’s imagine we have a box with similar dimensions, just like the one you see in the picture. This box is also 80 by 30 by 106 cm. However, 80 cm is the length of the box and 30 cm is the width of the box. Just like the bookcase, it also measures 106 in height.

Describing dimensions: Keywords - Length, Width, Height. From a tutorial by up2dateskills.

Dimensions and measurements can be extremely confusing, so I hope this blog post helped you to distinguish between length, width, height and depth a little better.

PART #5 

Pronunciation practice

In part 5, you can practice your English pronunciation. 

We have gathered a playlist with all the difficult words we have used to talk about the dimensions of an object.

You just have to click on the words you find difficult to pronounce, listen to the correct pronunciation and repeat as many times as you need until you get it right.

Your turn!

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If coffee is not an option, I would also be happy to hear your feedback. Please share some words in the comment section below and stay tuned! We will keep adding new tutorials.

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