Sometimes, seemingly simple words can cause problems. Take “half,” for example. It is a common term than any native English speaker should know. But wait! Are you sure you know the difference between the words “half” and “halve”? If not, read on to find out more.
Half (50% of Something)
We’ll start out with the more common word. “Half” is typically a noun that means “fifty percent” (or a similar amount). For instance:
750 is half of 1,500.
Do you want the other half of this pizza?
The plural of this noun form of “half” is “halves” with a “v.” This is because some words like “half” that end in an “f” or “-fe” change their spelling in plural form (e.g., knife → knives or calf → calves).
We can also use the word “half” to modify other words in a sentence. For example, we could use it in either of the following:
The cake was only half baked.
It should have been in the oven for another half hour.
In the first sentence above, “half” is an adverb that modifies the verb “baked” (i.e., the cake was only partially cooked). In the second sentence, “half” is an adjective that modifies the noun “hour” (i.e., we’re discussing 50% of an hour). But regardless of how it is used, the word “half” is always related to the idea of being divided, incomplete, or half of something whole.
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Halve (Divide Something in Two)
“Halve,” meanwhile, is a verb. It means “divide into two (roughly) equal parts”:
I will halve the cake and give one part to my sister.
A similar use is to mean “reduce by 50%,” such as in the following:
The new road halves the time it takes to get home.
All verb forms of this term are spelled with a “v” (i.e., halve, halves, halved, halving). As such, no verb form will be spelled with an “f.”
Should I Use Half or Halve?
“Half” and “halve” are related terms, but these words also have different uses:
Half can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. As a noun, it means “fifty percent of something” (or a similar amount). As an adjective or adverb, it shows that something is divided, half of a whole, or half complete.
Halve is a verb and means “divide into two equal or roughly equal parts.”
One point of confusion is that the plural of “half” is “halves,” which is also how we spell the third-person present tense form of the verb “halve.” But as long as you remember that the singular noun “half” is always spelled with an “f,” it should be easy to avoid errors in your writing.