Learning a new language is arguably the best way to broaden your horizons if you are looking at any kind of job dealing with public service or global politics. Interpersonal relationships between countries and governments are greatly improved when people are able to communicate clearly, and if you learn a language that is rarely spoken or known, you make yourself invaluable to your employer. However, learning a language can be difficult because it can be hard to keep track of all the rules that different languages follow in their grammar.
English is considered one of the most notorious languages for keeping track of which rules are common and which rules are broken often. People who learn American English as a second or even third language struggle to remember spellings, verb tenses, singular and plural subject/verb agreements, and several other common grammar mistakes. Because of the number of irregular forms that exist in English grammar, especially when it comes to plural nouns, memorizing the proper usage of different words can seem incredibly daunting.
In this article, let’s explore the singular noun “half”(pronounced hæf), learn its proper use, how to create its plural forms, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.
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The first step in really understanding a word is to actually learn what a word means. Often, the best method for finding the meaning of a word is to find its dictionary definition. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word half can be defined as, “either of two equal parts that compose something” or “a part approximately equal to one of these.” A secondary definition is “one of a pair.” In total, there are twelve different definitions listed for the word half in three parts of speech: noun, adjective, and adverb; today, we will be focusing exclusively on the noun.
Half can also be used to apply to time, in terms of two equal periods.
The thing that makes English words so difficult to learn is the fact that they so often break their own English language rules. For example, in creating the past tense of verbs, you typically add “-d” or “-ed” to create the past tense. However, several words actually break this rule and create their own irregular past tenses. For example, the verb “to run” does not add a suffix; instead, it completely changes its spelling.
This is the case with nouns very often as well. While most nouns just add “-s” or “-es” to create the English plural form, the plural of some nouns is irregular and involves changing spellings. The plural of half is irregular because it completely changes its spelling from “half” to “halves.” Instead of just adding a suffix, the word changes the “f” to a “v” and then adds the suffix as an afterthought. Irregular nouns can get very confusing.
Is Half Plural or Singular?
Half is singular and is a countable noun. So, therefore, it is possible to say, “I have five halves,” because you can count a physical quantity. Using the word half is reserved for contexts where only one half is counted or present.
Is Halfs a Word?
When asking whether or not something is a real word, what you are really asking is whether or not people use it often enough for it to be considered correct. The reason for this distinction is that language is directed by culture, not the other way around. The words people use in common conversation eventually become correct even if they are not considered correct by a dictionary. For example, the word selfie was added to several dictionaries a few years ago due to its prevalence in context and in culture.
The dictionary cannot be the definitive authority on all of language, so learn your audience and how they communicate, and you will be just fine.
In short, however, “halfs” is not considered to be a word in the majority of contexts. If you have used it up to this point, switching to the word “halves” is probably your best bet.
The History and Origin of the Word
One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from. A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English. According to EtymOnline.com, the word half was first used in Old English to describe “a side, or part, not necessarily of equal division.” The word came from the German halb and the Old English healf and is derived ultimately from the Proto-Germanic.
This may seem strange because the word itself does not seem to have any ancient roots. The majority of the nouns in English can be traced back to either ancient Latin or ancient Greek, but this noun’s irregularity can probably be attributed to its awkward and somewhat uncharacteristic etymology.
Examples of the Word in Context
Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly. Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation. Here are some common example sentences of the word half in context:
“Cut the cake in half, and we will each have the same amount. That should solve our problem.”
“I’ve been awake for thirteen hours, and I feel like not even half the day has gone by. Time is dragging, and it’s only been two and a half hours.”
“Have you ever drank half a gallon of milk in one sitting? Definitely won’t make you feel great.”
“The team was winning in the first half, but lost the game in the second half.”
Synonyms for Half
Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions. The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use, which is where a thesaurus comes in handy. Here are some synonyms for the word half:
Fifty percent: a mathematical term describing exactly one equal part of something
Portion: a term to describe a fraction that may not actually be an exact half
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.