In the following sentence, "other half" and "were" do not seem to match up:

In one study conducted by the University of Michigan, half of the participants were asked to solve a puzzle while mentally referring to themselves as "I," while the other half were asked to use "you".

Shouldn't it be the other half "was" asked to use "you"?

  • 1
    I just want to point out that a very similar issue is addressed by the question Half doesn't or half don't? To me, the questions don't seem exactly the same because in that question the word "half" is followed by "of" and then an explicit plural noun, while in this one there is only an implied "of the participants". However, I imagine that some of the other users of this site will view your question as a duplicate of that one or something similar unless you edit to explain how this case is different from the one discussed there.
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 0:18
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    I'd use "were" because they were asked as individuals, not as a team. Also, it would look very strange to write that the first half were asked and the second half was asked. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 1:49
  • How the Other Half Lives, How the Other Half Live. Dealers choice, it would seem.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


In this context, half is being used as a substitute for a count. Consider if it had been written:

50 of the participants (was/were) asked ..., while the other 50 (was/were) asked ...

In this form, it's clear that the plural conjugation is correct.

We also use the plural form with qualifiers like all and some.


This is going to be an American vs. British dialect difference to some degree.

American: The teams are good. The team is good. Half the team is good.

British: The teams are good. The team are good. Half the team are good.

British English doesn't look at the grammatical number (singular or plural); it looks at the number of constituent members.

I am a biased American, but this makes no sense to me. I don't hear British people saying "my table are broken" even though four legs and a flat surface constitute a table.

  • 1
    Can you cite a source that says that American and British speakers treat "half" differently? As you yourself point out in the last sentence of this post, the differences in usage that you allude to don't apply to all words, only to some specific ones.
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 4:53

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