Measuring the Volume of Liquids: Tools and Calculation

Joao Amadeu, Rebecca Gillaspy
  • Author
    Joao Amadeu

    Joao Amadeu has more than 10 years of experience in teaching physics and mathematics at different educational levels. Joao earned two degrees at Londrina State University: B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Science and Mathematics Education. He is currently working on his PhD in Science Education at Western Michigan University.

  • Instructor
    Rebecca Gillaspy

    Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

This lesson presents information about the measurement of volumes, more specifically for liquid substances. Learn how to find the volume of a liquid in two ways: through graduated recipients and through the density formula. Updated: 10/19/2021

Table of Contents


The Volume of a Liquid

The volume is one of many ways to scientifically describe an object or substance. It measures the occupancy of the object in a three-dimensional space; therefore, it takes into consideration the object's length, width, and height.

The approach for volume measurement can change according to the physical state of the matter. For solids, the volume is usually measured by finding the length of the object's sides and inserting the values into an equation. On the other hand, measuring the volume of a gas can be more complicated since the substance occupies the entire space of its recipient. In this case, pressure and temperature values should always be measured to give meaning to the volume.

Liquids fall between the characteristics related to gases and solids, since they do adapt their shape according to their recipient. However, liquids do maintain their volume even when their containers change. The following table compares the shape and volume of substances in three different physical states.

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  • 0:02 Measuring Liquids
  • 1:20 Graduated Cylinders
  • 3:28 Burets
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Physical state of substance Shape Volume
Solid Does not change Dos not change
Liquid Adapts to the shape of recipient Does not change
Gas Adapts to the shape of recipient Expands to occupy recipient

Measuring Liquid Volume

The shape of liquids change according to their recipients. If one pours one liter of water in a jar or in a bowl, the shape of that amount of water will vary. Its volume, however, will remain the same: one liter. The most basic method of liquid volume measuring is to pour the substance into a graduated recipient. The observer must check where the liquid level matches the recipient's marks, which will indicate the volume. A more complex way to calculate volume is by using the density formula. This method requires measurement of the values of density and mass.

How to Find the Volume of a Liquid Using Liquid Measurement Tools

Pouring a liquid into a graduated recipient is the simplest form of measuring the volume of a liquid. In science laboratories it is common to see a variety of these recipients that can be used for different tasks. In all cases, the volume marks imprinted on the vessels are the reference for measurement.

Graduated cylinders

Graduated cylinders.

Graduated cylinders.

These are long and thin recipients that are used only to measure volume of liquids. They are known for presenting a low error percentage due to the high number of graduation marks on them.

Beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks

Beaker and Erlenmeyer flask.

Beaker and Erlenmeyer flask.

These are graduated vessels that can serve to mix liquids and measure their volumes. Some differences between them can make one more appropriate than another for different tasks. For example, beakers cannot be covered due to its spout, and Erlenmeyer flasks usually need a funnel to receive fluids from another recipient.




Burettes are laboratory glassware used to dispense specific volumes of liquid. The outflow is controlled through a stopcock placed in one of their ends.




These are accurate tools mainly used to transport a volume of liquid between vessels. Pipettes suck and release liquids by permitting a vacuum regulation, usually through a bulb, in one of their ends.

Example 1: Find the approximate volume of liquid measured shown in items 'a' and 'b.'


Example 1.A: Burette.

Example 1.A: Burette.

The green liquid fills the burette up to, approximately, midway between the 30 ml and 40 ml marks. Therefore, the volume of the liquid is around 35 ml.


Example 1.B.: Flask.

Example 1.B.: Flask.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does liquid have volume?

Yes, liquids do occupy space, therefore, they have volume. Even though the dimensions of a liquid, at first, cannot be measured as in solids, the recipient that contains the liquid can be measured.

What is an example of liquid volume?

Liquid volumes can be measured through the use of graduated recipients (flasks, pipettes, burettes, etc.). Also, an indirect measure of volume through the values of mass and density can be made.

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