Q & A of the Week 你问我答
Height 身高

I want to know what the following sentences mean: He has brown hair and is six foot six. He is really short. He is five four. Do they mean someone's height?

Listen to this programme first and then read the information below. 请先听节目然后再阅读以下内容。

This week’s question was sent to us by Jojo from Guangdong saying she had seen sentences with the phrases ‘six foot six’ and ‘five four’ in them. They were wondering what this meant and if it was a way to talk about height.

Jojo guessed correctly that this is a way to talk about height in the UK.

There are different measuring systems that exist in the UK. One is called the metric system, which is the official system to use in public life such as in shops and on official forms. This uses metres, centimetres, kilometres, kilograms, litres.

Zhao Liang
At eight foot one, Zhao Liang is possibly the world's tallest man

However, an older more traditional system is called the imperial system. It's a way of measuring things mainly related to nature or body parts so you could have a good idea of how long or deep things were by comparing them to distances on your body, or things you use in everyday life.

This system is still used unofficially by lots of people in the UK (and in other countries too). And even in public life for example, beer is still sold in pints (which is around half a litre) and road signs in Britain and cars still use miles rather than kilometres.

The way people talk about height in the UK is another example of this. The old imperial system had measurements of feet and inches.

1 inch = 2.5cm
1 foot = 12 inches (which is around 30.5cm)

Note that when using the word foot for measurements, the plural is feet and foot (unlike the body part foot, whose plural is always feet).

So if you ask someone how tall they are they might say: six foot, or six feet (1.83 metres). They might say they are six foot six, or six feet six (1.98 metres). This is a short way of saying six feet and six inches. An even shorter form you might hear is six six.

We hope that has helped you Jojo. Thank you for your question.

If you have a question about the English, we will try our best to answer it for you. There are all kinds of language questions on our website - just email your question to questions.chinaelt@bbc.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

Glossary 词汇

guessed correctly 猜对了

measuring systems 度量系统

the metric system 公制计数法

in public life 日常公众生活

official forms 正式表格

metres 米 (复数形式)

centimetres 厘米(复数形式)

kilometres 千米(复数形式)

kilograms 公里(复数形式)

litres 升(复数形式)

the imperial system 英制的度量衡制

related to 和…有关联

distances 距离(复数形式)

unofficially 非正式的

road signs 路标(复数形式)

miles 英里(复数形式)

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