Technical English for Mechanical Engineering - Basic Technical Vocabulary

F. Giopp
by F. Giopp - 2 min read - Sun 23 Oct, 2022
Technical English for Mechanical Engineering - Basic Technical Vocabulary

When understanding technical English, it is necessary to introduce some basic vocabulary and grammar.

Technical English is different from the English taught at secondary schools. This article covers the essential tools for every mechanical engineering student to enlarge their knowledge and work in an international surrounding.

Tools in the Workshop

The first and essential thing to know is all the tools and machines in the workshop. This enables an engineer to give precise instructions to the trained workers about what to do and how. Therefore, we will provide an overview of the content of a toolbox, valuable verbs, measurement tools and the most common units needed during daily working processes.

Content of a Toolbox:

ring spanner | open-ended spanner | file | chisel | ratchet | sockets | side cutter | screwdriver | Allen keys | pliers | socket wrench | electric drill | metal saw | torque wrench | strap wrench (oil filter wrench) | grip vice pliers | centre punch | combination pliers | hammer | rim wrench | soldering iron | vernier callipers

Content of a toolbox
Content of a toolbox


When measuring workpieces, there are various methods and many tools are available. The first differentiation has to be made between gauges and measurement equipment.

The first represents either a measurement or a form that refers to limit dimensions of tolerances. These have to be fulfilled in fits and usually provide information about whether a fit is within the limit of tolerances or not. This group includes gauging tools, e. g. slip gauges and accidences, straightedge, square and limit gauges, cylindrical plug gauges, gauging rings and calliper gauges.

We can use the latter for acquiring information on the measurements of a workpiece and provide information on the length, width and depth of the outer or inner edges of a workpiece, hole or slot. The most common instruments in mechanical engineering are vernier callipers or calliper rules which we can use universally in the workshop. They provide information on lengths and are precise to 0.1 mm. When it comes to smaller tolerances, we usually use micrometres. They measure accurately to within 0.001 mm.

Measuring Tools

accidence | straightedge | cylindrical plug gauge | gauging tool | calliper gauge | gauging ring

Measuring Tools
Measuring Tools

Common Units

For a long time, every country has used its measurement system and units, which led to many problems, as the workpiece measurements were not comparable to each other. In an internationally operating industry, a standardized measurement system is essential, and for this reason, the International System of Units (SI-units) has been developed from the metric system. Engineers in the United Kingdom still often use the imperial system instead of the metric one, now the international standard system. Therefore, every engineer should at least have basic knowledge of the units of the imperial system and how the conversion between the two systems works.

Overview about the basic units and their symbols

Basic quantity Symbol Unit Abbreviation
Current I Ampere A
Voltage U Volt V
Thermodynamic temperature T kelvin K
Length l l metre
Mass m kilogram kg
Time t second s
Luminous intensity l2 candela cd
Molecular weight M M kg/mol
Electric resistance R ohms Ω
Temperature T celsius °C
Force F newton N
Speed v Meter per Second m/s
Electric capacity C Fard F
Pressure p p pasca
Frequency f F Hertz

Essential Vocabulary


Allen keys

calliper gauge

centre punch


clamp screw

to draw

to drill

electric drill

to enlarge



fixed jaw

gauging tool

to grind

grip vice pliers


inside jaws

to loosen

to measure

metal saw


to mill

milling tool

movable jaw


rim wrench

ring spanner

to saw

to screw


to sharpen

side cutter


socket wrench

to solder

soldering iron



strap wrench

to tighten



torque wrench

vernier calliper

calliper rule

vernier scale


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