Often in informal, non-technical language, concentration is described in a qualitative way, through the use of adjectives such as "dilute" for solutions of relatively low concentration and of others like "concentrated" for solutions of relatively high concentration. Those terms relate the amount of a substance in a mixture to the observable intensity of effects or properties caused by that substance. For example, a practical rule is that the more concentrated a chromatic solution is, the more intensely colored it is (usually).
For scientific or technical applications, a qualitative account of concentration is almost never sufficient; therefore quantitative measures are needed to describe concentration. There are a number of different ways to quantitatively express concentration; the most common are listed below. They are based on mass, volume, or both. Depending on what they are based on it is not always trivial to convert one measure to the other, because knowledge of the density might be needed to do so. At times this information may not be available, particularly if the temperature varies.
Units of concentration — particularly the most popular one, molarity — require knowledge of a substance's volume, which unlike mass is variable depending on ambient temperature and pressure. In fact (partial) molar volume can even be a function of concentration itself. This is why volumes are not necessarily completely additive when two liquids are added and mixed. Volume-based measures for concentration are therefore not to be recommended for non-dilute solutions or problems where relatively large differences in temperature are encountered (e.g. for phase diagrams).
Unless otherwise stated, all the following measurements of volume are assumed to be at a standard state temperature and pressure (for example 0 degrees Celsius at 1 atmosphere or 101.325 kPa). The measurement of mass does not require such restrictions.
Mass can be determined at a precision of < 0.2 mg on a routine basis with an analytical balance and more precise instruments exist. Both solids and liquids are easily quantified by weighing.
The volume of a liquid is usually determined by calibrated glassware such as burettes and volumetric flasks. For very small volumes precision syringes are available. The use of graduated beakers and cylinders is not recommended as their indication of volume is mostly for decorative rather than quantitative purposes. The volume of solids, particularly of powders, is often difficult to measure, which is why mass is the more usual measure. For gases the opposite is true: the volume of a gas can be measured in a gas burette, if care is taken to control the pressure, but the mass is not easy to measure due to buoyancy effects.