When I was a kid my dad used to say (in Norwegian):

This file weighs four megabytes.

Or maybe one could say

This file consumes four megabytes.

Or simply

This file is four megabytes.

But somehow I'm not sure.

What are some good verbs I can use for this?

  • 5
    We don't have a verb in English which is customarily used in this context. A native speaker would almost always say The file size is 4Mb, or even shorten it to The file is 4Mb (as you have it.) Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 19:56
  • 5
    @P.E.Dant: Sure we do. Us native speakers say "the file takes up 4MB". Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 22:31
  • 4
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit There are many verbs in use, but as the plethora of answers and comments illustrates, no specific verb is customarily used. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 22:36
  • 4
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I'll buy "Takes up certainly is a customary expression" but I think "the (unique? most often used?) customary expression" needs some evidence to support it.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 23:43
  • 5
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit This native speaker thinks "takes up" sounds weird. "The file takes 4 MB" sounds better, though I would still just use "is".
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 7:31

7 Answers 7


If you simply want to say how big a file is, then is is fine.

This video is 770 megabytes

If you want to emphasize how much space it is taking up, you can use occupy in the sense fill, exist in, or use a place

This video will occupy most of the free space on my phone.

  • 2
    I think there's some connotation difference between the two. I think we typically use "is" in cases where you're not really worried about how big the file is, but you're simply providing information. In cases where you're worried about how big it is, such as whether it will fit on a CD or not, we may switch over to "occupy" or "consumes" to make it clear that we are working with a finite resource.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 15:55
  • 1
    @CortAmmon: exactly, it's a question of perspective: occupy, consume and take up specify the effect on the outside, whereas contain, consist of and comprise specifies what is inside. is is completely neutral- it emphasizes neither external effect nor internal content.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 16:51
  • @CortAmmon I still use is for that. "This disc image is 7.34 GB, will it fit on a DVD?" I mean, we often use the size as an adjective in its own right, and is fits the pattern: "The 12 megabyte text file" ⇒ "The text file is 12 megabytes".
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Schism Well, I dunno. It would be awkward if somebody added "big", "large", "long", whatever to that in a sentence, which contrasts with how natural it is when adding "long" after a distance measurement. Also I contend that the presence of "long" on the end doesn't affect the accuracy of the statement: "The ruler is 30 centimeters" carries no less informational content than "The ruler is 30 centimeters long". "Long" only serves to differentiate from "wide" or "thick" or "high" or "tall", etc. but we don't need that because of context. It's possible that "accurate" wasn't the best word choice.
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 2:58
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    @JavaLatte Further to your point, these different verbs have different means/values. A 770MB Video FILE might OCCUPY more or less than 770MB of SPACE. Yet the file IS still 770MB in SIZE. For an analogy, a FAMILY may have 10 members, or be 10 people in SIZE. But they might occupy a 20 bedroom mansion, due to inefficient housing. They could also be squashed into a a squalid 2 bedroom flat.
    – Aron
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:29

What is wrong with take up?

The file takes up four megabytes.


One kilobyte (KB) is a collection of about 1000 bytes. A page of ordinary roman alphabetic text takes about 2 kilobytes to store (about one byte per letter). A typical short email would also take up just 1 or 2 kilobytes. Text is one of the most naturally compact types of data at about one byte required to store each letter. In non-roman alphabets, such as Kanji, the storage takes up 2 or 4 bytes per "letter" which is still pretty compact compared to audio and images

Definition ('take up')

to fill or use an amount of space or time

The table takes up too much room.
I won't take up any more of your time.
Her time is fully taken up with writing.

(Oxford Learner's Dictionary)


I think most English speakers say "is" or "takes". "This file is 4 MB" or "This file takes 4 MB."

We sometimes say "requires", especially if we're discussing whether the person has sufficient room on their device to hold it. For example when you install new software, you often get a message that says something like, "requires 100 MB, 280 MB available", and then if the "requires" is more than the "available" you get an error message. Or more casually, you might say to a co-worker, "This file requires 3 GB. Do you have enough room for it on your thumb drive?"

I've never heard an English-speaker say "weighs 4 MB", though it would make a wonderfully descriptive word for the idea.

If you said "consumes" people would know what you meant and would probably not think it incredibly odd wording, but few would actually say that.


12 megabytes are the size of the file. In English, sizes are measured. Some measurements, like weight, happen to have a special verb attached to them, derived from the measurement process. "This potato weighs 200 grams" means that, when you weigh the potato, the output of the measuring process is 200 grams.

We have never created a special word for the measuring process of information. Maybe information theorists have one, but it has never made it into common culture. So, if you insist on using a verb, you cannot go more specific than

This file measures 12 megabytes.

As others have noted, this is not typical usage. Nobody thinks of measuring a file as a process, because the information about the measurement is available without any action on our part. So we simply use the contraction

This file['s size] is 12 megabytes.

And that's all there is to it.

Sometimes the word you are looking for doesn't exist, because nobody needs it.


Generally people use the word size for this. For example "What size is the file?" or "The file size is 6 megabytes".

  • 5
    You did not answer the question. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 23:04
  • 2
    It is true that the question asked for a verb and my answer is not a verb, however my answer is the most useful because this is how a native English speaker would express this, and I think this is what the questioner really wanted to know.
    – bikeman868
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 6:40
  • 1
    @bikeman868 The question is tagged verb and verb-usage, it also emphasises verb in the question.
    – Sebi
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 9:33

There are so many verbs that can be used to convey the sense the OP wants to.

There's nothing wrong with the verb take (up), but the verb occupy is more common and idiomatic. We can also use the verbs consist of or comprise, but the usage of the comorise is more formal. The verb be can also be used as a main verb. So the following sentences are possibe:

This file takes (up) 35 megabytes.

This is a 35-megabyte file.

This file is 35 megabytes.

This file consists of 35 megabytes.

This file comprises 35 megabytes.

However, the sentence "This file occupies 35 megabytes seems more appropriate than the sentence "This file takes (up) 35 megabytes".

You can also say:

This file has a storage capacity of 35 megabytes.

  • 3
    I'm not sure of "This file has a storage capacity of 35 megabytes." I think that's actually the opposite meaning. "This storage device has a capacity of 35 megabytes / Great! that means it can store my file."
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 15:54
  • 2
    Both 'comprises' and 'consists of' sound definitely wrong. Both of these mean 'is constructed from' - the megabytes aren't components of the file, but a measurement of it.
    – peterG
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 13:59

This is exactly the sort of usage for which the English verb comprise is appropriate:

The file comprises 4Mb.

I propose, however, that we standarize instead on the elegant Norwegian expression:

The file weighs 4Mb.

  • You're not holding your breath for what?
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:41
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    I gather then that you think comprise is not a good verb. Your comprehension is lacking here: I did not say that "nobody else" uses it. Hardly anyone uses the verb deign either, yet it is certainly "good," and if more people did, it might be "better!" So with comprise. The objective is to increase vocabulary, not to reduce it to the bare necessities. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 23:11
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    Can you actually comprise quantities, or only discrete things? "The house comprises four rooms" is obviously okay, but "the pool comprises ten thousand gallons" and "the file comprises 4 megabytes" seem distinctly wrong to me.
    – hobbs
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 4:58
  • 2
    @P.E.Dant, maybe you should include a link to the definition that supports this usage. The definition I found certainly doesn't: to have as parts or members, or to be those parts or members - dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/comprise
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 9:43
  • 1
    @PEDant, it's a question of perspective: When we look at a file in a folder, we note only the effect on the outside world- the amount of space it takes up or occupies. When we open a file and look inside, we don't see bits: we see content. The file contains a document. The document consists of or comprises several chapters and some appendices. The appendices include references.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 17:35

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