When volume is mentioned in everyday life, it is often in reference to how loud the television or music is. However, volume also refers to the capacity of a container and is an important way to measure an object or material.

Not only are there different ways to measure volume based on which measuring system is used, but volume is also measured differently based on whether the object or substance is a gas, liquid, or solid.

There are numerous online calculators that can be used to measure volume, as well as formulas that you can use to calculate the volume yourself.

Continue reading to find out what volume is, how it is measured, and the importance of measuring the volume of materials.

Volume is how much space an object or substance takes up. It's generally understood that the volume is the capacity of the container rather than how much space the container itself takes up. The International System of Units (SI) states that the unit of volume is cubic meters (m3). This unit of measurement is officially used in every country bar the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar.

It's important to remember that volume doesn't refer to the weight or mass of an object or material. Mass refers to the amount of matter or quantity of an object, whereas the volume of a solid can be measured by liquid displacement. For example, if a rock is placed in a jug of water, the volume of the rock is displaced. If a floating object, such as a cork, were placed in the jug of water, the amount of water that has been displaced would be equal to the weight of the cork.

The majority of countries use the metric system as the system of measurement. Some countries haven't adopted the metric system and use alternative measurement methods. For example, the United States uses US customary units instead of the metric system. The United Kingdom has officially adopted the metric system, but the imperial system is still widely used within the country.

Below is a list of the US customary units:

  • Fluid ounce (fl oz)
  • Cubic inch (cu in)
  • Cubic foot (cu ft)
  • Cups
  • Pints (pt)
  • Quarts (qt)
  • Gallons (gal)

The UK uses similar measurement terminology for the imperial system, but the units are not exactly equal to the US customary units. Cups are also not commonly used in the UK imperial system.

To put these measurements into perspective, a juice box contains roughly one cup of liquid. A pint is equal to two cups, and a water bottle contains about a pint of water. A quart is equal to two pints, which is about the volume of a standard shampoo bottle. A gallon is equivalent to four quarts, which is usually what a milk jug can contain.

Below is a list of common metric units that are used to measure the volume of an object and their conversion rates:

1000 cubic millimeters (mm3)= 1 cubic centimeter (cm3)
1 cm3= 1 milliliter (mL)
10 mL= 1 centiliter (cL)
10 cL= 1 deciliter (dL)
1 dL= 100 milliliters (mL)
1000 cm3= 1 cubic decimeter (dm3)
1 dm3= 1 liter (L)
10 dL= 1 L
1000 mL= 1 L
10 L= 1 dekaliter (daL)
10 daL= 1 hectoliter (hL)
1 hL= 100 L
1000 dm3= 1 cubic meter (m3)
1000 L= 1 m3
1000 L= 1 kL
1 kL= 10 hL

You can use a simple equation to calculate the volume of a regular shape, such as a cube or a cuboid. To do this, you will need to measure the length, width and height of the shape and use the following equation:

Volume = length x width x height

For example, if a container is five inches long, has a breadth of four inches and is six inches high, the equation would be:

5 x 4 x 6 = 120 units3

You can use online calculators to work out how many cubic inches go into the volume unit that you want to convert to. If you are trying to measure the volume of an irregular shape, you can also use a displacement can or measuring cylinder. This works best for liquids as you pour them into the measuring containing

One of the most common uses of volume measurements is to show how much liquid is in a drinking bottle. In the US and UK, beer is sold in pints and a can of cola might also be advertised in ounces. In most other countries, these liquids would be sold in metric measurements such as millimeters.

Volume can also tell how much fuel your vehicle holds, which will let you know how much you need to fill your tank and how much it will cost you. You can also estimate how many miles or kilometers the fuel in your tank will last, which can help you work out when you need to refill your vehicle.

Another obvious use for measuring volume is when you are cooking and baking. Recipes will list the measurement for the ingredients you need so that you can ensure you have used the right consistency to make the final product. You can buy utensils for the kitchen that, when filled, give you exactly a cup or quart's worth of ingredients.

Another domestic use for volume is cleaning products. Most washing machines advise you on how much washing powder or detergent you should use in a washload of a specified number of garments. Measuring volume is also used for water conservation as you can calculate how many gallons of water are used in a shower.

You can convert between smaller volume units and larger volume units and vice versa. For example:

  • One pint = two cups
  • One quart = four cups
  • One quart = two pints
  • One gallon = four quarts

Larger units can be converted to smaller units by multiplying the number of larger units by the conversion factor of the corresponding smaller units. For example, to convert five pints to cups, you would multiply five by two. The answer is ten, which means that ten cups are equal to five pints. :

If you were trying to calculate the conversion rate between three quarts into pints, you would need to multiply three by two. This would equal six, which means that three quarts convert to six pints.

You can also convert larger units into smaller units. The conversion rate for the US customary units are listed below:

  • One cup = 1/2 pint
  • One pint = 1/2 quart
  • One quart = 1/4 gallon

To convert smaller units to larger units, you need to divide the number of smaller units by the denominator (bottom number) of the fraction. For example:

One cup = 1/2 pint

16 cups = 16/2 = 16 ÷ 2 = 8

16 cups = 8 pints

If you don't want work this out manually then you can also use our handy and easy-to-use volume conversion calculator.

Although the UK and US use similar terminology for the imperial and United States customary unit systems, the volume measurements aren't exactly the same. The table below shows the conversion rate between the Imperial system, the US customary system, and the metric system for volume.

UnitImperial systemMetric equivalentUS customary systemMetric equivalent
1 cupNot commonly used/8 (fluid) oz.236.59 ml
1 pint20 (fluid) oz.568.26 ml16 (fluid) oz.473.18 ml
1 quart40 (fluid) oz.1.137 l32 (fluid) oz.946.36 ml
1 gallon160 (fluid) oz.4.546 l128 (fluid) oz.3.785 l

Gas that has been produced through a chemical reaction (such as a metal reacting with acid) can be measured through displacement with a gas syringe or an upside-down cylinder. The benefit of using a gas syringe is that it has a precise scale, which glass jars don't. However, a glass jar doesn't have a time delay as a gas syringe does, and it's guaranteed that all the gas produced is from the reaction.

It can be difficult to measure the volume of gas as most types of gas are invisible. Their volumes also depend heavily on temperature and pressure. You must report these factors when measuring the volume of gas, or the findings could be considered invalid. Unlike liquids and solids, the volume of gas expands to occupy the container.

The volume of liquids is easier to measure than gasses. Although the shape of liquids changes according to their container, the volume will stay the same. For example, you could pour a pint of water from a bowl and into a jug, but the water will always have a volume of one pint.

You can easily measure a liquid's volume by pouring it into a container. As long as you know the container's volume capacity, you will know that the liquid has the same volume. You can calculate the container's volume by using the equation length x breadth x height.

It can be more difficult to measure the volume of the container if it is an irregular shape. However, this problem is avoided if you know the density of the liquid. You can do this by weighing the container and then with the liquid inside it. You can then subtract the weight of the container from the overall weight and use the density to calculate the volume.

You can usually find the density of common liquids, such as water, online. This can speed up the process of calculating the volume.

It's easier to measure the volume of solids if they are a regular shape, such as a cube. You can use the equation L3 if you are calculating the equation of a cube as all of the sides will measure the same length. The equation that you need to measure the volume of a sphere is V= 3/4πr3.

Measuring the volume of irregular shapes, such as a rock, is more difficult as the sides will have different lengths and potentially no straight edges. The standard way to measure the volume of an object is to place it in a container of water and measure how much water it displaces.

If you use a cylindrical container to measure an object's displacement, you can use the formula V=πr2 × change in water depth to calculate the object's volume. If you use a rectangular container, you can use the volume formula V=L×W× change in water depth to find the object's volume.

The majority of the world has adopted the metric system for measurement. The metric units of volume measurement include units such as milliliters, litres and cubic units. The United States uses the customary units system, which measures volumes in units such as fluid ounces, cups and gallons.

There are different ways to measure the volume of an object or material, depending on whether it is in the form of a gas, liquid or solid. Liquids are perhaps the easiest to measure as you can choose a container that you already know the volume of and pour the liquid in. It's easy to measure liquid volume if the container features vertical markers that list the volume measurements.

You can calculate the volume of a solid by the displacement method. This involves measuring the volume of water in a container, placing the object in the container and measuring how much of the liquid is displaced. The volume of gases can be measured using gas syringes or upside-down cylinders. However, it's important to record the conditions that the gas is in as this will affect the gas's volume.