Describing Size and Dimensions

Verbs 'Medir,' 'Tener' and 'Ser' Commonly Used

Following are three of the common ways in which Spanish expresses measurements. In most cases, the three ways are interchangeable; which you use is a largely a matter of personal preference.

Medir: This verb, which is conjugated irregularly, generally means "to measure."

  • Examples: Mido cinco pies y cinco pulgadas de alto. (I measure 5 feet, 5 inches tall.) Los científicos hallaron un fósil que mide dos metros de largo. (The scientists found a fossil that measures two meters long.)
    Tiene: This verb literally means "to have." It can be used to directly indicate dimensions. It also is conjugated irregularly.
    • Examples: El centro comercial tiene tres kilómetros de largo. (The commercial center is three kilometers long.) Si antes tenía cinco metros de profundidad, ahora tiene dos. (If it was five meters deep before, it's now two meters.)
    Ser de: This is the rough equivalent of saying in English that something is a certain size. Note the use of the preposition de, which is not translated to English. This method of describing dimensions is less common than the other two.
    • Examples: El área es de 160 metros cuadrados. (The area is 160 square meters.) Las dimensiones del nuevo almacén son de 25 por 70 metros, y la altura es de ocho metros. (The horizontal dimensions of the new warehouse are 25 by 70 meters, and its height is 8 meters.)