Measuring the Metric Way

The German-speaking countries, like all of Europe, use the metric system exclusively. When you go into a store in Germany, you can't ask for a quart of milk or two yards of yellow ribbon. You need to know Liter and Meter.

The metric system is really quite efficient, because it's based on numbers that are easily multiplied and divided (1, 10, 100, 1,000):

  • ein Kilometer (1 kilometer) equals eintausend Meter (1,000 meters)

  • ein Meter (1 meter) equals einhundert Zentimeter (100 centimeters)

  • ein Meter (1 meter) equals eintausend Millimeter (1,000 millimeters)

Using metrics you can measure distance, length, weight, temperature, and volume.

Distance and Length

In the United States, we judge long distances in miles. The metric equivalent is Kilometer, which equals a thousand meters. Shorter distances are measured by yards, feet, and inches in English. In the metric system, shorter lengths are measured by Meter, Zentimeter, and Millimeter. Ein Kilometer is about 0.6 miles. To know how far sechs Kilometer is, multiply 6 times 0.6. That's 3.6 miles. These metric lengths are usually abbreviated to km, m, cm, and mm.

Weight

We measure weight by pounds and ounces. Incredibly, we have sixteen ounces in one pound. In the metric system, weight measurements are calculated in easy multiples: ein Kilogramm (1 kilogram) equals eintausend Gramm (1,000 grams).

The German word Pfund means pound, but it's not the pound we know in the United States. Ein Pfund is fünfhundert Gramm (500 grams) or half a Kilogramm. Kilogramm is abbreviated as kg, Gramm as g. German speakers often just say Kilo instead of Kilogramm: Ich möchte ein Kilo Tomaten, bitte. (I'd like a kilogram of tomatoes, please.) Ein Kilo is about 2.2 pounds. So if you want to know how many pounds drei Kilo are, multiply 3 times 2.2. That's 6.6 pounds.

Temperature

We use the Fahrenheit thermometer to measure temperature: 212°F is the boiling point of water, and 32°F is its freezing point. The metric system (Celsius) once again works in simpler multiples. Einhundert Grad (100 degrees) is the boiling point of water, and null Grad (0 degrees) is the freezing point.

To convert temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the metric temperature by 9/5 and add 32. To find the temperature in Fahrenheit of zweiundzwanzig Grad Celsius (22°C), multiply 22 by 9/5. Then add 32. That tells you that it's 71.6°F.

Volume

We measure liquids in the United States by pints, quarts, and gallons. In the metric system, liquids are measured by Liter and Milliliter. If you want to know how many fluid ounces vierzig Milliliter (40 milliliters) are, multiply forty times 0.034. That comes to 1.36 fluid ounces. To know how many quarts are in zehn Liter (10 liters), multiply ten times 1.06. That's 10.6 quarts. To find pints, multiply the number of liters by 2.1. To find gallons, multiply the number of liters by 0.26.

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