Volume and Capacity
Basics on the topic Volume and Capacity
Measuring Volume and Capacity – Introduction
Have you ever wondered what capacity and volume mean? Capacity and volume are both words that we use when talking about measuring liquids, but they have different meanings.
Capacity is the maximum amount that a container can hold. Volume is the amount of space the liquid takes up.
We could have a beaker that had a capacity of 1,000ml, but when we poured in our liquid, there might only be 300ml. This means that although the capacity (maximum amount that can be held) is 1,000ml, the volume of the liquid is 300ml. We would know this by looking at the scale on the side of the container.
Here are some liquids in containers that have different capacities! The can has the smallest capacity as it can only hold 330ml, the bottle has the medium capacity as it can hold 1,000l, and the bucket has the largest capacity as it can hold 5,000ml or 5l!
When we measure the volume of a liquid, we can use containers that have different capacities. As long as there is a scale on the side of the container with the measurements to read, we can find the volume of the liquid.
We usually use litres and millilitres when talking about the volume of liquids, although other units are also sometimes used, such as pints. It is important when measuring liquids that we have a container that has a scale, so that we can read how much liquid is in that container.
An example of when we need to measure the volume of different liquids would be when making a smoothie. We might need to measure 100ml of apple juice, 200ml of mango juice, 30ml of banana puree and 60ml of yoghurt. Different apparatus are used to measure volume such as measuring jugs, beakers and cups. What is used to measure volume will often depend on the amount of liquid being measured, for example, a larger amount of liquid will need a beaker with a larger capacity. It’s not just smoothies we need to measure volume for, sometimes we just want to know how to measure water volume!
Volume and Capacity – Definitions
Volume: The amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container.
Capacity: The maximum amount that something can contain.
Measuring Volume and Capacity – Examples
To measure the volume, start by selecting a container to pour your liquid into. There are a range of capacity measuring instruments and we select depending on the amount or volume of liquid we are going to measure.This could be a larger container if you want to measure volume in litres, or a smaller one if you are measuring in milliliters. Next, pour the liquid into the container, such as a cylinder. The cylinder must be marked up the side in a scale in either milliletres (ml) or litres (l). The container, such as the cylinder, when full, will be its total measure of capacity. Now that the liquid is in the container, you can look on the scale and read what number to liquid is up to. This is how to measure the volume of a liquid in a cylinder.
Here is a table with the key information for how to measure the volume of a liquid.
Step #  Action 

1  Select the container 
2  Pour the liquid in 
3  Read the scale on the side of the container 
If you want to know the capacity of a container, you are trying to find out what the total amount of liquid is that the container can hold.
An example of this would be if you wanted to find the capacity of a cup.You could fill the cup with water, then pour this into a cylinder or measuring jug and read the scale to find out how much liquid it held.
Measuring Volume and Capacity – Standard Units
In the UK, the standard units we use for the measure of volume and measuring capacity are litres and millilitres. Although we sometimes use other units such as pints and gallons, these are used less often.
To see how different measures of volume compare, see this table.
Example #  Millilitres (ml)  Litres (l)  Pints  Imperial gallons 

1  1,000  1  1.8  0.2 
2  2,000  2  3.5  0.4 
3  3,000  3  5.3  0.6 
4  4,000  4  7  0.8 
5  5,000  5  8.8  1 
Measuring Volume and Capacity – Summary
Capacity and volume, often used interchangeably when discussing liquid measurement, carry distinct meanings. Capacity refers to the maximum amount a container can hold, while volume denotes the space occupied by the liquid. For instance, a beaker with a 1,000ml capacity may only contain 300ml, showcasing the difference between capacity and volume. Various containers, like a can (330ml capacity), a bottle (1,000ml capacity), and a bucket (5,000ml or 5l capacity), illustrate different capacities. When measuring volume, we can use containers with varying capacities, then use the scale to determine the exact volume.Measuring volume involves selecting an appropriate container, pouring the liquid, and reading the scale. In the UK, standard units for volume include litres and millilitres, though pints and gallons are occasionally used. To determine the capacity of a container, fill it with water, transfer to a measuring jug, and read the scale for the total amount it can hold. Whether making smoothies or measuring water volume, using the right apparatus, such as measuring jugs or beakers, is crucial.If you want to practise measuring capacity for KS1, measuring capacity for year 1, or measuring capacity for year 2 check out the interactive exercises and downloadable worksheets for measuring volume and capacity.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Topic Measuring Volume and Capacity
Volume and Capacity exercise

What are volume and capacity measured in?
HintsThis tool is used to measure length. Look closely to see the unit.
Volume and capacity measure liquids. What are liquids measured in?
Here the volume of water is being measured, can you see the units being used?
SolutionVolume and capacity are measured in millilitres and litres (ml or l).

Can you complete the definitions?
HintsThe capacity of a container is the largest amount it can hold.
The volume of the liquid in the jug is 60 ml.
The capacity of this jug is 100 ml.
SolutionVolume: How much liquid is in a container.
Capacity: How much liquid a container can hold.

What is the capacity and volume of each of these jugs?
HintsRemember capacity is the total amount of liquid a container can hold.
Look carefully at the scale to find the volume.
For example, the capacity of this jug is 100 ml and the volume is 80 ml.
Remember, there are 1,000 millilitres in 1 litre.
SolutionHere we can see the capacity and volume of each jug.
Remember, the capacity is the total amount of liquid a container can hold, and the volume is how much liquid is in a container.
Therefore, the capacity of the jug on the left with the green liquid is 100 ml, as that is the total amount of liquid it can hold. The volume is 30 ml as this is how much liquid is in the jug.
The capacity of the jug in the middle with the pink liquid is 10 ml, as that is the total amount of liquid it can hold. The volume is 7 ml as this is how much liquid is in the jug.
The capacity of the jug on the right with the orange liquid is 1 l or 1,000 ml, as that is the total amount of liquid it can hold. The volume is 400 ml as this is how much liquid is in the jug.

Which jug should we use for each ingredient?
HintsLook carefully at the capacity of each jug.
Look carefully at the scale.
Which liquid does the recipe need most of? This will need the jug with the largest capacity.
SolutionThe recipe needs 600 ml of water, so we need a jug with a capacity that is larger than that. Therefore, we use the jug with the 1 l capacity for water.
The recipe needs 90 ml of blackcurrant juice, so we need a jug with a capacity that is larger than that. Therefore, we use the jug with the 100 ml capacity for blackcurrant juice.
The recipe needs 8 ml of lemon juice, so we need a jug with a capacity that is larger than that. Therefore, we use the jug with the 10 ml capacity for lemon juice.

How much juice is in this jug?
HintsWe can use the scale to see that the volume is between 50 ml and 100 ml.
Count up in steps of ten from 50 ml until you reach the line where the juice is.
SolutionThe volume of the juice in the jug is 80 ml.

Which jug should be used for the tropical juice?
HintsLook carefully at the capacity of each jug.
Add all of the amounts of juice together to find the total volume. Which jug would this fit into.
450 + 200 + 150 + 50 = 850
Which jug will be able to hold 850 ml of liquid?
Remember, 1 litre (l) is equal to 1,000 millilitres (ml).
SolutionIf we add 450 + 200 + 150 + 50 we get 850.
The only jug that will hold a volume of 850 ml is the jug with a capacity of 1 l.