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Gauge and Yardstick

Ask a Teacher: Gauge and Yardstick
Ask a Teacher: Gauge and Yardstick
Gauge and Yardstick
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about “gauge” and “yardstick.”


Dear teacher,

I am Anora, your loyal reader from China. I am glad to write an email to you again.

I am confused by the words, "gauge" and "yardstick". I sincerely hope to know their differences.

Looking forward to your marvelous answers.




Thanks for writing to us, Anora.

A “yardstick” is a measuring device. The length of a “yardstick” is three feet or .9144 meters long. We measure large things using yardsticks, like fabric or furniture.

I used a yardstick to measure fabric for a dress that I will make.

Calling something a “yardstick” is to say it is a standard by which to judge something:

The teachers used the test results as a yardstick for how much their students learned this year.

Dancers use their technique as a yardstick for improvement.

Now let’s move onto “gauge.”

Like “yardstick,” a “gauge” involves measurement. Instead of measuring length, a “gauge” can measure distance, size, width, or the thickness of material or objects.

For example, needles are sized by gauges to show their thickness.

My ears were pierced using an 18-gauge needle.

Maddie McFarland receives an ear piercing in Ann Arbor Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Maddie McFarland receives an ear piercing in Ann Arbor Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

A gauge can also be a device or instrument for measuring.

Sam uses a digital thermometer as a temperature gauge when he cooks.

As a verb, “gauge” has several meanings. The first meaning is to measure the exact size or number of something.

Weather scientists gauged snow fall at 12 inches.

We can also use “gauge” to mean estimate.

I gauge that we will have about 70 people at the wedding.

And lastly, “gauge” can also be used to describe judging other people’s emotions or opinions.

Social media companies often gauge their users’ interests with questions and opinion studies.

He couldn’t gauge his sister’s feelings about the new move.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Anora.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher. I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

standard –n. a level of quality, size or some other condition that is considered acceptable or desirable

pierce– cut a hole in the body to wear earrings or other jewelry

dial - n. a round part on a piece of equipment that you turn to operate something

thermometer– n. a device used for taking a person's temperature


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