I faced this problem when interpreting the transcript of records today. The subject is: "European History of the second half/part of the XX century till today" So is it better to say "part" or "half"?

P.S. does "till today" sound all right?

  • 2
    You could also say: "European history from mid 20th century OR mid-twentieth century to the present/current day." The expression: "till today" is not appropriate, it sounds like tomorrow it might be different.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 9, 2015 at 12:25
  • 2
    Generally "half" is used.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 9, 2015 at 13:13
  • As @Mari-LouA indirectly says, you're using the wrong preposition: it should be from, not of. European History of the second half of the 19th century is European History that belongs between 1850 and 1899. European History from the second half of the 19th century is European History starting from 1850 (and moving all the way up until the present day). Mar 9, 2015 at 22:25

4 Answers 4


Suppose that we believed that an important event divided a century into two parts and those two parts were not of equal length. Examples might be the Stock Market Crash in 1929, Yuri Gagarin being the first man in space in 1961, or Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in 1979. We then have the century divided into two parts, that are not halves.

If we literally mean the second 50 years (or some approximation thereof), then second half is surely preferable.

  • Thank you! That really explains the use of these two words, now it's clear Mar 9, 2015 at 10:55
  • 5
    Or if we divided it into more than two parts, and are considering the second one. Mar 9, 2015 at 15:51

Both are correct, but second half is the more common expression:

  • Ngram second half vs second part of the century.

A more appropriate sentence could be :

  • "European History from the second half of the 20th century to the present time".
  • Thanks for checking my entire sentence and correcting "current days"! Mar 9, 2015 at 10:56
  • 1
    We are confusing two ways of expressing time. One is to state a period of time in its entirety e.g. the second half of the century. The other is to express it from x date to y date. Your reply conflates the two. The OP needs to decide the start point for the second half(part) of the XXth century and then say e.g. from 1945 to the present day. Or else European history of the last 70 years.
    – WS2
    Mar 9, 2015 at 12:03
  • @Ws2 - OP is looking for a way to express the concept of the second 50 years of the 20th century. With that respect both second half and second part would fit. Second half is more commonly used!!
    – user66974
    Mar 9, 2015 at 13:22
  • @Josh61 It would depend on whether the part of the century that the OP has in mind is roughly half, or not. As it happens the 20th century does break roughly into two convenient halves; 1945 being the great watershed. If that were the break point one had in mind, I would agree it wouldn't matter much if one used two halves or two parts.
    – WS2
    Mar 9, 2015 at 14:56

Echoing the comment from @WS2:

The sentence you've presented is confusing two ways of expressing time. The phrase, "second half of the XX century" (likewise, "second part of the XX century") is describing a duration of time, while "till today" is describing a discrete instance of time--so it doesn't make sense semantically to say "second half of the XX century till today", regardless of your word choice.

If you're trying to convey the time period from XX50-present day, just say so: e.g. "European History from 1850 to present day".


Let's not over think this. All the proposed phrasings are correct. Some are clumsy, but all are correct.

We've entered the realm of subjective preference. I would vote for "Second half" because using "fuzzy" terms when speaking about a broad swath of time is more convenient. (It's the same reason historians use "circa".) Using "half" over "part" is a bit more clear and requires fewer details to make your point.

Go with "Second half".

RE: Your p.s...

When I was teaching history at a local uni., I read pounds and pounds of papers that would all say "until present day", "up until now", or some other such end-of-time-period phrasing. I hated them all.

Let me ask you this... do you have to close the time period to which you're referring? Do you specifically have to exclude the 14 years since the turn of the century? Will your readers really be puzzled if you don't close your reference? If we're talking half-centuries, you're already generalizing. Your point will almost always be made better if you just exclude closing your time-period. E.g.: "In the second half of the 20th century, we discovered that littering jungles with non-reclaimed land-mines is a bad thing." It's highly unlikely anyone would be upset with a soft definition of your time period. Focus on the point you're making, don't worry about the nit-pickers and date-watches.

Good luck.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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