Blog/Grammar tips
4 August 2022
6 min read

Half vs halve

Half vs halve: A detailed explanation of the words

Half vs halve: A detailed explanation of the words

The English language is a complex beast. There are so many rules to follow and exceptions to remember. No wonder English language learners often get confused about when to use certain words. Take the words "half" and "halve," for example. They both have the same root, but they are not interchangeable. 

So what's the difference between "half" vs "halve"? Let's take a closer look at the meaning and usage of these words.

Half vs halve: The correct use

Both "half" and "halve" refer to splitting or dividing up something into two equal periods or parts, which could be equal or nearly equal depending on the context.

"Half" is multifunctional, working as a noun, adjective, and adverb. "Halve" functions as the action-taker here, being a verb in the parts of speech. 

Since the words are heterographs (sounding almost similar), people often mishear them. Also, their meanings may slightly vary since "half" is a multifunctional word, but "halve" is not. 

Let's dig deep into their meanings and functions to clear up your confusion.

Meanings and uses of half

The general meaning of "half" is fifty per cent of two parts of something. The meaning slightly changes based on its role as different parts of speech. 

Half as a noun

When it comes to the word "half," there are actually quite a few different meanings that it can have. As a noun, half can refer to:

One of two equal parts that make up a whole:

  • I ate half of the sandwich and saved the other half for later.

A measuring unit that is half of the next larger unit: 

  • Half a teaspoon of sugar is all you need in your coffee.

A quantity that is less than the whole:

  • Mark drank half a glass of water. (It means Mark drank less than a glass of water, not exactly half a glass of water.)

A part or side of something:

  • Lisa was standing in the northern half of the room. (It means Lisa was standing on the north side of the room.)

The distance from the top or bottom of something to the middle: 

  • The flagpole is half as tall as the building.

A person who is only partially related to another person by blood or marriage: 

  • My half-sister finished graduated last month. 
  • Wayne is Michael's half-brother.

Plural of "half"

The plural form of the word is "halves," replacing the "f" at the end with "ves." 

It's an irregularity in English grammar where the plural version is not formed by adding simply an "s" at the end of the singular noun. 

For example: 

  • Star → stars
  • Planet → planets

Other similar words like "half" are calf and knife. Their plural forms are:

  • Calf → calves
  • Knife → knives 

Half as an adjective

As an adjective, "half" can mean either being incomplete, lacking or being exactly or nearly half of something. From a grammatical viewpoint, it will modify the noun in a sentence. 

If you were to say that you had seen a "half moon," you would mean that the moon was half the size of a full moon. Here' "half" is giving information about the noun "size." Similarly, you can say "half hour," "half price," or "half measures."

Another example could be: 

  • Miriam has half a mind to quit her job. 

In this example, "half" describes the state of mind. Here, Miriam is considering quitting her job, but she has not made a final decision yet.

Some hyphenated compounds of the word function as adjectives in sentences. 

For example, words like "half-cooked" and "half-hearted" mean something incomplete and unenthusiastic, respectively. It can also refer to something undeveloped or mediocre in quality, as in "a half-baked idea."

Half as an adverb

"Half" also functions in the adverb form. In those cases, it modifies or describes an adjective, verb, or another adverb in a sentence. 

Here are some examples of how "half" can be used as an adverb:

  1. I'm only half joking.
  2. Michelle is only half done with her homework.
  3. Andy is only half serious about his new diet.

When "half" is used as an adverb, it means "partially" or "not completely." So, in the first example, the person is only partially joking; they're not entirely serious. 

"Half done with the homework" means the person still has more work to do to complete their homework.

And in the third example, the person is serious about their diet but is not entirely committed to it.

"Half" can also be used to mean "approximately." For example, you might say, "I'm half asleep," to mean that you're almost asleep. You could also say, "the project is only half finished, " meaning that more work is still needed.

Meanings and uses of halve

The word "halve" is a verb that refers to dividing something into two equal parts. As you can see, "half" can be used in many different ways, but "halve" can only be used as a verb.

Here are some example sentences:

1. To divide something into two halves or two roughly equal parts:

  • Mary halved the apple and gave one piece to me. (Referring to Mary dividing the apple into two parts.) 

2. To reduce something by half:

  • If you halve the amount of sugar in a recipe, it will be much healthier. (Meaning reducing the amount of sugar by half in the recipe.)

3. To split something evenly:

  • If you halve the bill at a restaurant, you’ll each pay an equal amount.

4. To find the midpoint of something:

  • Halve the line by putting a dot in the middle.

5. To share equally something with another person:

  • I will halve the workload by sharing it with my colleague. 

Halve in tenses

When it comes to the word "halve," there are four different tense forms that you need to be aware of. Here's a quick rundown of each and some examples to help you better understand how they're used.

Present Tense: The present tense form of "halve" is simply "halve" or "halves."

  • I halve the apple.
  • He halves the apple.

Past Tense: The past tense form of "halve" is "halved." 

  • I halved the apple.
  • He halved the apple.

Present Participle: The present participle form of "halve" is "halving." 

  • I am halving the apple to make a pie.
  • He is halving the apple to make a pie.

However, the word's use in this tense form is rare, so the instances sound awkward. 

Past Participle: The past participle form of "halve" is "halved." 

  • I have halved the apple.
  • He has halved the apple.

Half vs halve: The verdict

So, both words mean the same thing. "Half" can be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb, whereas "halve" is only used as a verb.

If you're referring to one of two equal parts, you will use the word "half." If you're referring to the act of dividing something into two equal parts, you will use the word "halve." It's as simple as that.

FAQs about half vs halve

Is it "2 halfs" or "2 halves?"

"2 halves" is the correct phrase, as it conforms to English grammar rules. "Halves" is the plural form of "half." So, "2 halves" is the correct plural expression, while "2 halves" is a grammatical mistake. 

How do you use "halve" in a sentence?

"Halve" is a verb, so you can use it like any other verb word in a sentence, and the simple structure could be: subject + verb + object. For example: 

  • We halved the number of people on each team for not finding enough candidates.
  • After halving the staff, the company could finally turn a profit.

What is half of halve?

"Half" is the noun form of the verb "halve." As a noun, it means 50% or half of something, while the verb form indicates the action of dividing or splitting something in half. For example:

  • I've cut the apple in half.
  • I've halved the apple.

Is "halve" a real word?

Of course, "halve" is a proper word. It's the verb form of the word "half." It refers to dividing something into two pieces. For example:

  • I halved the orange to share with my sister. 
  • My father never wanted to halve the property.

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