Methods to obtain tensile stress–strain properties of materials from a practically non-destructive indentation test are of great industrial interest. Nanoindentation is a good candidate. However, to do this successfully, indentation size effects must be accounted for. An indentation size effect with spherical indenters has been shown for a range of fcc metals with relatively large grain size (Spary et al 2006 Phil. Mag. 86 5581–93); the increase in yield stress being proportional to the inverse cube root of indenter radius. Here, we investigate these differences further and present results for the indentation size effect with spherical indenters on Cu samples with a range of different grain sizes from 1 µm to single crystal. The important experimental control parameter, of the relative size of the indentation compared with the grain size, is also explored by using indenters of different radii on the different grain sized samples. When the grain size, d, is less than 6 times the radius of the projected contact area, a, a Hall–Petch-like behaviour is observed superimposed on the indentation size effect. For d > 6a the indentation size effect dominates. The two effects may be combined by addition in quadrature. This new parametric function is able to predict the indentation pressure in annealed copper given input values of indenter radius and grain size.