1. I'll be back in half an hour.

  2. I'll be back in half hour.

Which is the correct sentence? Are there any differences between British English and American English?


You could say "a half hour" or "half an hour". The article choice depends on where in a phrase you place it.

Would you ever say "I'll be back in hour"? No, because while possibly legal, the use of the article "an" would be needed to make it sound like a native English speaker.

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  • 3
    Saying "a half hour" in the UK, would definitely sound strange and unusual. It is probably one of those differences in American English. – Tristan Mar 27 '13 at 18:56

"half-hour" is commonly written with a dash (hyphen) and is a distinct word in the dictionary. So, "a half-hour" = 30 minutes = "half an hour".

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In Australia we say 'half an hour'. You might hear 'a half hour', but it would sound stilted. This is probably changing with the influence of American television.

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The top one is correct.

* I'll be back in half hour

would be OK if it said

I'll be back in a half hour

Note that "a half hour" is an American usage, British people only use "half an hour".

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  • 1
    Actually, I have heard "half an hour" from an American person from the east coast (NY). :-) – kiamlaluno Aug 18 '10 at 1:41
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    @kiamlaluno: "Half an hour" is American but "a half hour" is not British. – delete Aug 18 '10 at 1:50
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    I grew up in the American South and "half an hour" was the norm. I don't recall people using, "a half hour". – wdypdx22 Aug 23 '10 at 3:03

The very same question puzzles me these days. The title should be "half an hour" versus "a half hour" I used to apply the former. I notice it is an issue when I read the entry in electronic dictionary of Longman contemporary English version 5. It offers examples like, 1. half a mile/pound/hour etc half a pound of butter; It’s about half a mile down the road. She drank half a bottle of wine. half a million dollars; 2. a half hour/mile etc You can’t just waltz in a half hour late. It’s about a half mile down the road. a half day excursion to the island; He demanded a half share of the money. Both items belong to entry of half with the meaning of "exactly or about 50% (½) of an amount, time, distance, number etc" The dictionary does not explain the difference. I infer it is the same and both are correct. Maybe the only difference lies in habit or region. For instance, many mention on this page, British people and Americans apply this in different ways.

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