The naming in the metric system is all predictable prefixes and suffixes. That might sound intimidatingly scientific, but I promise it is actually way easier than the Imperial way! It’s sort of like those funny flip books where you could match different heads with different bodies and legs to make cool characters.

Just see:

**Suffixes (ending with):**

Litre—dealing in volume

Meter—dealing in distance

Gram—dealing in weight

So, with those three little words you can now know what types of units of measurements a millilitre, a centimetre, and a kilogram are, even if you’ve never heard of them before (there are waaaaaay more suffixes than this, but these are the ones that matter with most of my DIYing stuff). You can’t say that for a foot, an ounce, or a mile.

For each of these units, we have a base amount of it—that is, one litre, one meter, and one gram. One litre is about ¼ of a gallon, or two pints. One meter is approximately one yard, and one gram is approximately 1/28th of an ounce. And, one gram of water is equal to one cubic millilitre of water (which is pretty handy if you want to know how much 1L of water weights. Hint: It’s 1kg.)

**Prefixes (starting with):**

MultiplesKilo (1000×) Mega (1000000×) Giga (1000000000×) |
FractionsDeci (1/10) Centi (1/100) Milli (1/1000) |

The prefixes indicate how many of that base amount you’re working with—one, ten, one hundred, one thousand, and so on (and also down into percentages, like one-tenth, one one-hundredth, and so on). These are always in multiples of 10 (yay!). As with the suffixes, there are oodles of prefixes, but we’re really only concerned with about half a dozen of them. You’ll likely recognize kilo, mega, and giga from their pairing with -byte (kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and even terabyte).

**Putting it Together**

Now it’s just like making toast.

Let’s take a look at a word like kilogram. We know from the “gram” part that we’re dealing with weight. We know from the “kilo” part that we’re looking at units of 1000 grams. So, 3.5kg (3.5 kilograms) would be 3500 grams. See? Easy! Let’s try another.

How about a centimetre vs. a kilometre? “Metre” tells us we’re working in length/distance. “Centi”= 1/100 of a meter, and “kilo”= 1000 meters. So, a centimetre is obviously much smaller than a kilometre. You could also say that 1 kilometre = 1000 meters = 100 000 centimetres (1000m × 100), or that 1 centimetre = 0.01m = 0.00001 km (100/1000).

**Learning More**

There’s a lot more to know if you’re curious, but unless you are working in a lab you likely won’t need much more than this. Wikipedia has a great article if you’re interested!

So… does that help? Do you think you’ll give the metric system a chance?

Love your blog! Although, this was a relatively random and boring topic.

Partly because I hate math,and also because I don’t go by the metric system in the U.S.

On another note, keep up the awesome work! Been keeping tabs on your blog for months now 🙂

Well, that’s kind of a bummer—you’re exactly the type of person I wrote these blogs from. An American who doesn’t understand the metric system and is likely to ask me what a gram is because you don’t use them 🙁 But thanks for reading! And if you ever want to make any of my recipes that use the metric system, you know where to find the boring info that’ll explain it 😛

You know what? Haha, I didn’t even think about it- mostly because I use a scale that goes by the metric system. But now this makes complete sense on why this is going to be useful for me. Math/measurements are my not my strength, and that’s why I’m a soaper 🙂

Ha 😛 Yay for your metric scale, though 😉 How funny that you say you’re a soaper because math and measurements aren’t your thing—out of all my DIY projects, soap making is the one where those things matter the most. I think you need to give yourself more credit!

I use both and am constantly interchanging as most of my family are overseas and don’t understand the imperial system. I had to adapt to the ancient imperial system when I moved to the USA. The metric system is sooooo much easier and more user friendly.

100% agreed here 😉 Though I do find it is useful to understand both—for instance, I can look at a volume of something and I’m more likely to guess that it’s 1 cup than 250mL. That could just be my oddly hybridized Canadian upbringing, though 😛

I’m an Aussie! Metric alllllll the way!!!!!

Booyah! METRIC FOR THE WIN! 😛

I know I’m precisely the person you wrote this for, and I appreciate it, but – I just can’t deal with metric measurements. Why? Because I grok imperial measurements (if you know the reference). I know without having to do any mental gymnastics what something weighs, how long it is, how much it holds, etc. by ounce, inch, pound, foot, gallon, quart, etc. I grew up with imperial. The younger people today (I can’t believe I’m that old to be saying that) will be able to make the switch, but us old timers will just have to die off never being able to truly understand metric 😉

I totally get that, Ann. All that said, though… you can still use my metric recipes if you just have a scale that measures in grams as well as ounces 😛 Then it’s just counting, no understanding needed! And I figure you won’t be telling me I forgot my Imperial measurements anytime soon 😛

Hello

I’m going to make the diaper cream, I have all the ingredients. I’m having trouble with the grams. Can you help me with that?

2g

7g

18g

Thanks

Amanda

Hi Amanda! Grams are a metric weight measurement, so you will need a scale. I’ve also written a handy two-part article on the basics of the metric system to get you started—part one and part two. The internet is also full of awesome unit converters. My favourite is Google’s—just search something like “10g in oz” and a great little converter will pop straight up (just be sure you’re using weight ounces not fluid ounces). Hope that helps!