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When referring to a hard-drive's capacity (In GigaBytes), is it correct to use any of the following:

How large is your hard-drive? How big is your hard-drive?

Or is there any better way for terming it?

I know it is safe to say "How many GigaBytes does your hard-drive have?" or "What is the capacity of your hard-drive?" but from the former two, is any correct?

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There just has to be a woodchuck gag somewhere in this. – Ed Guiness Nov 25 '11 at 14:52
Possibly related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/24499/… – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 25 '11 at 15:06
@EdGuiness: How many bytes could a hard drive bite if a hard drive could bite bytes? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 25 '11 at 15:25
up vote 8 down vote accepted

How big, How large, and What size are all perfectly common ways of asking, but there's always the possibility you might get the answer 2.5", 3.5", etc., being the physical dimensions of the drive unit.

I'd use capacity in a written question where it might be tedious to have to ask again if you're misunderstood, but I think most people would use how big in general conversation.

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+1 for capacity. – Terry Li Nov 25 '11 at 20:43

To my ears, large has a slightly stronger connotation of physical size. Big is more informal but is also more often used figuratively to refer to some other sort of magnitude. For instance, a big game (importance), big earthquake (power), big payment (amount of money). In most cases large can be also be used, but seems to me to be a little more ambiguous. If you say someone has a big heart I understand that she is generous, while if you she has a large heart I wonder if she suffers from cardiomegaly.

So I would probably prefer big if the context is not too formal. In formal writing, I'd use the more technical capacity.

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In everyday conversation I always say either "How large/big is your hard drive?" or "What size is your hard drive?"

Technically this leaves room for ambiguity as it's unclear whether you're referring to the physical size or the storage capacity.

In practice, however, this will not cause any problems because the vast majority of people are utterly unconcerned with the drive's physical dimensions and will thus automatically interpret your question as referring to the amount of GB.

If you feel that it is necessary to avoid ambiguity you should make the question as specific as possible, e.g. "What are the physical dimensions of your hard drive?" or " What is the storage capacity of your hard drive?"

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How large is your hard-drive?


How big is your hard-drive?

are correct syntactically but may be misinterpreted as asking about the physical size of the hard-drive semantically. You can use

How much can your hard-drive store?

to express the question unambiguously.

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It's either dimensions, weight, or capacity of the drive. Pick a keyword and apply it to the question "What are/is the __ of the hard drive?".

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Hmm. I never heard of anyone being interested in the weight of a drive. – FumbleFingers Nov 30 '11 at 20:46

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