English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
  1. It’s easy to cut a rectangle into halves.
  2. This will cut both rectangles in half.

What is the difference between halves and half?

There are two answers, and it’s best to get both. "It’s easy to cut a rectangle into halves." All you have to do is make sure that the cut passes through the precise center of the rectangle. The cut can be at any angle. Here we have two rectangles, a positive one (the cake) and a negative one (the missing piece). Decide where the centers of the two rectangles are. These two points make a line. Make a cut along that line, and the cake will be split evenly. "This will cut both rectangles in half", so each piece will equal half of the cake plus half of the missing piece. In other words, both of the resulting pieces have the same area.

share|improve this question
If you have a question, you seem to have answered it. – Barrie England Sep 21 '12 at 5:56
A half is one of the halves. – Sᴋᴜʟʟ ᴘᴇᴛʀᴏʟ Sep 21 '12 at 9:23
Consider also the "plural" condition. Examples would be Shelf - shelves. Them self - themselves. Scarf and scarves, to list a few. In a lot of situations only an "s" is needed (a boy) - the boys. – user97979 Nov 16 '14 at 22:11

The bulk of your question seems to be quoting an answer to an interview question about cutting a rectangular cake into two equal pieces when a rectangular piece has already been taken. For the first bolded item, “It’s easy to cut a rectangle into halves”, one could just as well say “It’s easy to cut a rectangle in half”; and similarly for “This will cut both rectangles in half”, one can say “This will cut both rectangles in halves”. In the particular cases in this example, either form can be used; by habit I'd probably use half.

The term halves refers to the parts that result when something is cut in half. In the interview problem, the important thing to emphasize is that each rectangle is cut in half, or sliced into two equal-sized parts. You can emphasize that via either wording.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Jan 18 '15 at 17:16

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.