A quick guide on how to read a vernier caliper. A vernier caliper outputs measurement readings in **centimetres (cm)** and it is precise up to 2 decimal places (E.g. 1.23 cm).

**Note:** The measurement-reading technique described in this post will be similar for vernier calipers which output measurement readings in inches.

### Measurement Reading Technique For Vernier Caliper

In order to read the measurement readings from vernier caliper properly, you need to remember two things before we start. For example, if a vernier caliper output a measurement reading of **2.13 cm**, this means that:

- The
**main scale**contributes the main number(s) and one decimal place to the reading (E.g. 2.1 cm, whereby 2 is the main number and 0.1 is the one decimal place number) - The
**vernier scale**contributes the second decimal place to the reading (E.g. 0.03 cm)

Let’s examine the image of the vernier caliper readings above. We will just use a two steps method to get the measurement reading from this:

- To obtain the
**main scale**reading: Look at the image above, 2.1 cm is to the**immediate left of the zero**on the vernier scale. Hence, the main scale reading is 2.1 cm - To obtain the
**vernier scale**reading: Look at the image above and look closely for an**alignment of the scale lines**of the main scale and vernier scale. In the image above, the aligned line correspond to 3. Hence, the vernier scale reading is 0.03 cm.

In order to obtain the **final measurement reading**, we will add the main scale reading and vernier scale reading together. This will give 2.1 cm + 0.03 cm = 2.13 cm.

Let’s go through another example to ensure that you understand the above steps:

**Main scale** reading: 10.0 cm (Immediate left of zero)

**Vernier scale** reading: 0.02 cm (Alignment of scale lines)

**Measurement reading**: 10.02 cm

### Compensating For Zero Error

Now, we shall try with zero error. If you are not familiar on how to handle zero error for vernier calipers, I suggest that you read up on Measurement of Length.

The reading on the top is the measurement obtained and the reading at the bottom is the zero error. Find the actual measurement. (Meaning: get rid of the zero error in the measurement or take into account the zero error)

Measurement with zero error: 3.34 cm

Zero error: – 0.04 cm (negative because the vernier scale is to the left)

Measurement without zero error: $3.34 \, – ( \, – 0.04) = 3.38$ cm

If you do not understand the subtraction of the negative zero error from the measurement, please read on. Since the zero error is -0.04 cm, this means that all measurements taken by the vernier calipers will be *SMALLER* by 0.04 cm. Hence, you will have to *ADD* 0.04 cm to *ALL* measurements in order to get the *TRUE* measurement. The subtraction is done in the above case is to have an elegant way of obtaining a resultant addition: $3.34 + 0.04 = 3.38$ and to make it *COMPATIBLE* with positive zero error. This means that once you have determined the nature of the zero error (positive or negative), you can just subtract the zero error and be sure that your final answer is correct.

Consider a zero error of +0.04 cm. With my method, $3.34 \, – (+ 0.04) = 3.30$ cm.

**Normal method:** Since the zero error is +0.04 cm, this means that all measurements taken by the vernier calipers will be larger by 0.04 cm. Hence, you will have to *SUBTRACT* 0.04 cm from *ALL* measurements in order to get the true measurement. The final calculation will be $3.34 \, – 0.04 = 3.30$ cm, which is the same as my method.

**Note:** I hope that I did not confuse you. Drop a comment below if you encounter any difficulties.

**More Vernier Caliper Practice:**

### Self-Test Questions For Vernier Calipers

**Where on the vernier calipers would you read to obtain the main scale reading?**

### Show/hide answers

The main scale reading is obtained from the reading on the main scale that is at the** immediate left of the zero** on the vernier scale.

**Where on the vernier calipers would you read to obtain the vernier scale reading?**

### Show/hide answers

The vernier scale reading is obtained from the reading on the main scale that has an **alignment of the scale lines** of the main scale and vernier scale.

**What is the smallest possible reading (in cm) of a vernier caliper?**

### Show/hide answers

The smallest possible reading of a vernier caliper is 0.01 cm.

If you still do not understand the concept, please click the navigational buttons below to go to the next page. There is a **very useful** simulation of the vernier calipers.

Anonymushroom scribbled

Thanks so much! I needed this for my Physics exam and this really helped! Things were a bit unclear, but re-reading it solved it so it wasn’t that big of a deal

dux scribbled

still things re not clear especially that -0.04 how did you get that one?

Robert Miller scribbled

The vernier reading (0.06) is a measure of the displacement of the vernier zero from the main scale marker to its immediate left, -0.1 . So the actual measurement at this point would be main plus vernier, -0.1 plus 0.06 equal to -0.04 if the error is less than one division to the left. Good luck.

Girivasan scribbled

How to know that 0.04 as the error and how you calculated

Rajesh K scribbled

Extra…. Examples

Elliott scribbled

Thank you for this article..I decided to go and buy a newer type digital caliper as I found matching up the lines of the vernier sliding scale too hard on the eyes..and never felt exactly sure

Hassaan scribbled

How did you know the zero error was -0.04?

Russ scribbled

Since the sliding scale 0 is left of the fixed scale 0 when the jaws are fully closed, you have to count from the right end of the sliding scale to the mark that most closely aligns with a mark on the fixed scale. In the example above, there are 4 marks from the right thus .04 is the correction. This is a negative error and must be subtracted from every reading taken. Subtracting a negative value is equivalent to adding. So, in the example, you would have to add .04 to every reading taken with this instrument.

Brendon scribbled

Thank You So Much!

Realone scribbled

First time I’m reading this article

Question is why chose a mark that most closely aligns (i.e 4th mark) when there’s one that directly aligns (i.e 6th mark)

Jef scribbled

@Realone: the 6th mark was indeed used; re-read Russ’ comment above about counting from the right.

Arul scribbled

When you deduct the vernier scale reading0.9×6=5.4mm from mains calendar reading 1×5=5mm you will get the error _0.4mm error