I often see the expression "half a [something]", but never "quarter a [something]".

Why is the first grammatically correct but not the second despite "half" and "quarter" both being fractions?

  • You can have half a pound of flour and with a slight twist in wording, a quarter pound of flour. – Lawrence May 23 '19 at 21:58
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    It's quite possible if used as a verb: I'm going to quarter an apple. I assume you're only talking about its use as a noun? (I'm going to eat quarter an apple.) Although it seems wrong to me, I'm not entirely convinced that it's actually asyntactic. The answer may simply be that we just don't say it that way. It's possible there's no rule or explanation for this other than simple non-use. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 23 '19 at 23:43

"Half a cup" sounds like "Half of a cup" So I imagine any word that ends in f and would normally require the word "of" for it to make sense, have "of" left out because it sounds like it's still there. (I can't think of any others examples so I'm still unsure).

"Quarter of a cup"

  • It's quite possible to say add quarter a cup of milk. So, although this is an interesting theory, I don't think it entirely works. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 23 '19 at 23:51
  • @JasonBassford I don't think I would say that. I'd say either 'add a quarter cup of milk' or 'add a quarter of a cup of milk'. However I would say 'I have a half hour appointment' and also 'I have a quarter hour appointment' – BoldBen May 24 '19 at 12:41
  • @BoldBen I've heard it both ways. Add a quarter cup is probably more common, but I find nothing wrong with add quarter a cup. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 24 '19 at 15:19
  • @JasonBassford I don't see anything wrong with it, it just doesn't seem natural. Perhaps it's a UK / US difference. – BoldBen May 25 '19 at 18:29

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