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Getting Started - Converting Metric Units into other Metric Units
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All metric units can be converted into other metric units using equivalents that are powers of ten.

Example 1:
Centimeters in a Meter.
There are 100 centimeters in a meter, so the equivalent is
1 meter = 100 centimeters.
Both 1 and 100 are powers of 10 (1 = 100 and 100 = 102).
(Meters are roughly a yard long, while centimeters are roughly half an inch long.)

Example 2:
Grams in a Kilogram.
There are 1,000 grams in a kilogram, so the equivalent is
1 kilogram = 1,000 grams.
Both 1 and 1,000 are powers of 10 (1 = 100 and 1,000 = 103).
(Grams are roughly the mass of a paper clip, while kilograms are a little over 2 pounds.)

Example 3:
Liters in a Megaliter.
There are 1,000,000 liters in a megaliter, so the equivalent is
1 megaliter = 1,000,000 liters.
Both 1 and 1,000,000 are powers of 10 (1 = 100 and 1,000,000 = 106).
(Liters are roughly a quart of space, while a megaliter, not a commonly used unit, would be the space in about nine large living rooms.)

The table below shows some metric prefixes and the "prefix units" they create.

This table does not show any prefix units larger than a million (1,000,000 or 106 ) times the root unit or smaller than a millionth (.000001 or 10-6) of the root unit.

Table : Some Metric System Prefix Units
Most commonly used prefixes in bold.
NOTE: Some powers of 10 don't have unit names. They're in italics.
Prefix Symbol
Full Name of
(using meter as example)
(using "m" as example)
1 "prefix units" =
this many root units
 (using "m" for "meter" example)
mega- M megameter Mm 1 Mm = 106 m
none NA NA NA 1 NAm = 105 m
none NA NA NA 1 NAm = 104 m
kilo- k kilometer km 1 km = 103 m
hecto- h hectometer hm 1 hm = 102 m
deca- da decameter dam 1 dam = 101 m
root unit, i.e. meter (m), gram (g), or liter (L)
deci- d decimeter dm 1 dm = 10-1 m
centi- c centimeter cm 1 cm = 10-2 m
milli- m millimeter mm 1 mm = 10-3 m
none NA NA NA 1 NAm = 10-4 m
none NA NA NA 1 NAm = 10-5 m
micro- miu micrometer mium 1 mium = 10-6 m
People who saw this lesson also found the following lessons useful:
Writing Equivalents
Writing Equivalents with Whole Numbers
Creating Conversion Factor from Equivalent
Master Metric Equivalent and conversion factor
How to Convert Metric Units
How Numbers Behave When Multiplied or Divided by Positive Powers of Ten
To Convert Between Two Prefix Units
The shortcut for converting metric units
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