Half or Halve: Understanding Meaning and Usage

Many words in the English language have various forms that change according to their part of speech function. One word might have several meanings depending on whether you’re using it as a noun, verb, or adjective, and the words “half” and “halve” are no different.

The difference between “half” and “halve” is that “half” is a noun that means 50% of something or half of something. The word “halve” is a verb that describes the action of dividing something in two or splitting something 50/50. If you add an -s to the word “halve” to make “halves,” it changes again to a noun describing two halves of one thing.

This article will take a closer look at how altering a word according to parts of speech changes its meaning, the difference between the words “half” and “halve,” and how to use each word in various contexts correctly.

Understanding the Word “Half”

The word “half,” again, is a noun, and it means 50% of something. If you have half of something, you have exactly 50% of that item. 

Although formerly used exclusively to denote exactly 50%, the word’s official meaning has since evolved, and it can also mean partly or an amount approximate to 50% of something.

This change in meaning has a lot to do with the parts of speech linked to the word “half.”

Half as a Noun

If you’re using “half” as a noun, you are almost always referring to precisely 50% of something. This means that you can say, “I have half an apple” or “I only want half,” when talking about a pizza, for example.

Half as an Adjective

If you’re using the word “half” as an adjective, you’re talking about something that is partially complete, divided, or 50% finished.

Therefore, you could say, “They are offering chocolates at half price on Valentine’s Day” or “The cupcakes aren’t done; they’re only half baked.” In these examples, the word “half” describes the word that comes after it. 

So, the chocolates’ price has been cut by 50%, and the cupcakes are only partially cooked, or halfway from being done baking.

Half as an Adverb

If you use the word “half” as an adverb, you assign its meaning, which is to be partially complete, to describe a verb in a sentence.

So, you could say, “The lecture was only half full,” which would mean that only 50% of the students attended, or you could say, “I am not half as handy as my husband,” which would mean that you’re only partially as skilled in handy jobs as your partner.

The different parts of speech are vital to understanding how and when to use words and terms correctly. It is always useful to know whether the word you’re seeing is a noun, adjective, adverb, or other.

Second-language learners will do well to invest in good study aids to help them understand the differences.

Some of the best study aids for second-language students include The Oxford New Essential Dictionary and Dreyer’s style guide, offering fantastic insight into parts of speech. Both are available on Amazon.

Understanding the Word “Halve”

The word “halve” is a different form of the word “half.” It is another part of speech and, therefore, has a slightly different meaning.

The word “halve” is a verb, which is a doing word, so it does not describe something as partially complete or full but, rather, the action of splitting something down the middle.

Therefore, you could say, “I am going to halve this apple in order to share it with you” or “They will halve the proceeds and give 50% to charity.”

In these examples, the word “halve” functions to indicate the action of either cutting the apple down the middle or splitting the proceeds by two.

A Word about “Halves”

The word “halves” can be a conjugation of the word “halve,” which means that it alters its form to suit the sentence’s subject, or it can be a noun that stands all on its own.

It’s also essential for English language learners to distinguish the words “halve” and “have,” which are entirely different words, although they sound the same. “Have” is a word that indicates possession.

Halves as a Verb

Verbs change form according to the subject of a sentence. Words that end in -e, like “halve,” usually get an -s added to the end when conjugating them according to the sentence’s subject (source).

Take a look at the example table below:

SubjectVerb
IHalve
YouHalve
She/He/ItHalves
TheyHalve
WeHalve

As you can see, the word “halve” becomes “halves” when we conjugate it for the third-person singular. Now, let’s see how that works in a sentence:

SubjectSentence
I halve the apple.
You You halve the apple.
She/He/ItShe/He/It halves the apple.
They They halve the apple.
WeWe halve the apple. 

As you can see, we still use the word “halves” as a verb, and it is still the same in meaning as “halve,” which means to split down the middle.

Halves as a Noun

The word “halves” can also stand on its own as a noun. In this case, it has the same meaning as the noun “half,” but it indicates the plural form.

Therefore, you could say that you have “half an orange,” or you could say that you have “two halves of an orange.” 

Half vs. Halve

From what we’ve discussed so far, it should be clear that the words “half” and “halve” are connected in meaning, but they differ according to how and where we use them in the sentence.

The word “half” describes 50% of something, whereas “halve” is the action of dividing that something in two. Let’s examine some examples of how to use each correctly:

HalfHalve
I ate half a pizza.I am going to halve the pizza so we can share.
I have half an orange.Mom will halve the orange so we can each have a piece.
Half of the proceeds will go to charity.They will halve the proceeds and give 50% to charity.
This is only half of the puzzle.You need to halve the pieces of the puzzle so that we can each build a section.

It is quite common for individuals to confuse words in English with similar meanings, particularly for second-language learners.

However, it is crucial to understand the difference between the words you’re reading to know how to use them in a sentence correctly.

This is the case with “half” and “halve,” as they have similar meanings but different applications. The same goes for “well” and “good,” although they don’t sound the same, they have similar meanings, and, as such, they are easy to mix up. 

See our article on doing well or doing good to understand better how similar meanings can lead to the misuse of words in English.

Halfs or Halves

As we’ve discussed, the plural form of “half” when used as a noun is “halves.”

However, there is some debate concerning whether or not we can accept “halfs” as an alternative. For the most part, we can use either “halfs” or “halves” when using it as the plural for the noun “half,” although “halfs” is considered the non-standard form (source).

The most widely accepted standard form is, therefore, to use “halves” when applying the plural of “half,” but if you were to use “halfs,” you would not be entirely incorrect.

Halfed or Halved

Although we can use “halfs” and “halves” largely interchangeably, the same cannot be said for “halfed” and “halved.” 

As you will remember, the word “half” is a noun, but the word “halve” is a verb. Therefore, “halved” would be the past tense of the verb “halve,” and, in this case, you cannot use “halfed” as an alternative spelling.

The word “halfed” is widely agreed to be a misspelling of the word “halved” and should be avoided in both written and verbal form. If you’re speaking in the past tense, always use the correct and accepted form of the word — halved.

Halve or Half an Hour

Image by Joseph Redfield via Pexels

The most common occurrence for using the word “half” will be when telling time, particularly when it comes to second-language speakers. Telling time, asking for the time, and talking about time makes up a large part of a second-language learner’s studies. 

That is why it is so important to understand the difference between “halve” and “half” in this context.

When speaking about time, you will often come across the phrase “half an hour” or “an hour and a half.”

It is important to note here that “half an hour” means “half of an hour” or 30 minutes. An hour can be divided into two halves of 30 minutes each.

It is correct to say “half an hour” or “an hour and a half.” It is not correct to use “halve” as an alternative spelling here. 

As English native speakers, we will never use the word “halve” when it comes to telling time. You don’t physically divide up an hour; therefore, you would always refer to the noun as “half an hour,” not the verb of physically dividing the hour in two.

Although it is most common to use the phrases “half an hour” and “an hour and a half,” you could also say “half-hour,” which is a standalone word written with a hyphen.

This standalone word also means 30 minutes, but we use it on its own, preceded by the article “a” or “the.”

Example Sentences

The following are example sentences for telling time in half-hours:

I will be there in half an hour.

I will be there in a half-hour. 

I will be there in the next half-hour

She has been waiting for the doctor for an hour and a half.

The procedure will take approximately half an hour.

His project took him two and a half hours to get done.

As you can see, it is fairly simple to use the word “half” when talking about time. It simply indicates half of an hour, or 30 minutes, in each case. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

In the last example sentence where the activity has taken two and a half hours, the word “hours” is plural because it refers to the “two,” not the “half.” In this case, “half” still means only 30 minutes. 

A Word about Parts of Speech

Now that we understand the nitty-gritty of their differences, let’s review the English parts of speech because this plays a large role in understanding the difference and usage between these two terms.

In total, English has eight parts of speech, and these include nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections.

Knowing a word’s part of speech helps us understand how that word functions, its meaning, and how we use it in a sentence grammatically.

One single word can function as multiple parts of speech when we apply it in different circumstances, and this is true of the words “half” and “halve” (source).  

The eight parts of speech:

NounName of a person, place, thing, or idea
PronounUsed in place of a noun
VerbA doing word describing an action
AdjectiveDescribes or modifies the noun or pronoun
AdverbDescribes or modifies the verb, adjective, or another adverb
ConjunctionA joining word between clauses or phrases
PrepositionPlaced before a noun or pronoun to modify another word in the sentence
InterjectionAn expression of emotion

Use this table and refer back to it when we talk about the different parts of speech concerning “half” and “halve”.

Final Thoughts

The difference between “half” and “halve” comes down to how and where we use it in the sentence.

The meaning of each always has to do with 50% of something. We can use “half” as a noun, adjective, and adverb, and it speaks about 50% of an item or group of items. The word “halve” is a verb, a doing word, that describes the action of splitting something in two.

It is beneficial for any second language English student to understand the difference between the various parts of speech as this will assist you in understanding how to use commonly misunderstood terms such as these correctly.

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