The quantities being compared in a ratio might be physical quantities such as speed, or may simply refer to amounts of particular objects. A common example of the latter case is the weight ratio of water to cement used in concrete, which is commonly stated as 1:4. This means that the weight of cement used is four times the weight of water used. It does not say anything about the total amounts of cement and water used, nor the amount of concrete being made.

Older televisions have a 4:3 ratio which means that the height is 3/4 of the width. Widescreen TVs have a 16:9 ratio which means that the width is nearly double the height.

[edit] Dilution ratio
Ratios are often used for simple dilutions applied in biology. A simple dilution is one in which a unit volume of a liquid material of interest is combined with an appropriate volume of a solvent liquid to achieve the desired concentration. The dilution factor is the total number of unit volumes in which your material will be dissolved. The diluted material must then be thoroughly mixed to achieve the true dilution. For example, a 1:5 dilution (verbalize as "1 to 5" dilution) entails combining 1 unit volume of diluent (the material to be diluted) + 4 unit volumes (approximately) of the solvent medium to give 5 units of the total volume. (Some solutions and mixtures take up slightly less volume than their components.)

The dilution factor is frequently expressed using exponents: 1:5 would be 5eāˆ’1 (5āˆ’1 i.e. one-fifth:one); 1:100 would be 10eāˆ’2 (10āˆ’2 i.e. one hundredth:one), and so on.

There is often confusion between dilution ratio (1:n meaning 1 part solute to n parts solvent) and dilution factor (1:n+1) where the second number represents the total volume of solute + solvent. In scientific and serial dilutions, the given ratio (or factor) often means the ratio to the final volume, not to just the solvent. The factors then can easily be multiplied to give an overall dilution factor.

Non-scientific dilutions...