English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

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

Which of the following is correct?

(1) The dog is half wolf.

(2) The dog is a half wolf.

If (1) is correct, is "wolf" an uncountable noun or an adjective?

share|improve this question
If a person is half genius and half idiot, or a job is half work and half play, that doesn’t make those nouns into adjectives. Why would you think it would do that to them? I wouldn’t exactly call them mass nouns either, but no, you cannot make plurals of them. They are more like categories when used that way. What exactly is the trouble here? This is an unremarkable construct. – tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 4:50
@tchrist You say they're not an adjective or a mass noun. But semantically and syntactically, I'm leaning toward "adjective". It's not a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of the more reasonable approach. No answer/comments have persuaded me otherwise yet. – JK2 Nov 30 '12 at 9:47
Don’t be ridiculous. If someone is half idiot, then he is half an idiot and half of an idiot. See how that works? Those are nouns. Let’s not change the half part. – tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 14:12
@tchrist You can say either "She's human" or "She's a human". Just because you can say "She's a human" doesn't necessarily mean "human" in "She's human" can never function as an adjective. Even though "wolf" has no entry as an adjective in dictionaries, we're treating "wolf" much the same way as "human" as in "She's human". – JK2 Dec 1 '12 at 11:01

The correct formulation is: The dog is half wolf.

In this sentence, half wolf forms a predicate nominative which means that the sentence doesn’t change meaning if the subject and predicate are inverted. “Half of the dog’s nature is wolf” is an exactly equivalent statement.

Diagrammatically, the sentence reads “dog is wolf”. The is an article adhering to dog, and half is either an adjective describing wolf, or arguably (and probably better) an adverb that modifies “is” by itself would imply a full equality, whereas the more likely desired result is to say that half is the exact nature of the relationship.

Note that the subject dog could either be the dog (demonstrably a single dog to which your are referring) or a dog, implying that any and or all dogs are half wolf. In either case, however, an article would force the word half to modify wolf, rather than the verb is, and, in doing so, make for an awkward construction. It is awkward because half a wolf is a very concrete (if somewhat messy/gory depending on how you slice it) thing.

share|improve this answer
@user27275 I see you are noting the same thing I did — that is, that you could also say that the dog is a half-wolf, or if you worked at it a bit, that he is half a wolf. Note that we normally hyphenate things like half-brothers, half-hours, half-lives, half-truths, half-elves, half-orcs, or half-wolves. – tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 3:13
You could also say the dog is half a wolf. That would mean mostly the same as "half wolf" except that it would be a more figurative expression. A dog could literally be "half wolf" if one of its parents were a wolf, but if you called it "half a wolf" it would imply that it had certain lupine qualities in abundance, even though it was still 100% dog physically. – Robusto Nov 30 '12 at 3:44
Half a bee, philosophically Must, ipso facto, half not be But half the bee has got to be A vis-a-vis its entity, d'you see? But can a bee be said to be Or not to be an entire bee When half the bee is not a bee Due to some ancient injury? – Jim Nov 30 '12 at 4:20
But is the dog half full or half empty? – MετάEd Nov 30 '12 at 6:30
IF “Half of the dog’s nature is wolf” is an exact equivalent, let me rephrase: "Half of the dog's nature is that of a wolf." So, in a sense, "wolf" in both the former and the original is referring to "the nature of a wolf". If my analysis is right, then that "wolf" is indeed an adjective. No?? – JK2 Nov 30 '12 at 9:05

Considering that half wolf is another name for the breed Wolfdog (wolf–dog hybrid), the correct sentence should be "(2) The dog is a half wolf."

Wolf-dog Education says Mid-Contents (35%-74%) (are) g)enerally described as being “half wolf”.

share|improve this answer
The educated down voter may kindly enlighten me. If you have issues with your English, or with your education in general, SE can help. – Kris Nov 30 '12 at 14:56

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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