Word Confusion: Half vs Halve vs Have

Posted July 11, 2019 by kddidit in Author Resources, Word Confusions, Writing

It’s a two-fer: half vs halve and halve vs have.

Half and halve refer to the division of something into equal parts. Half is the heavy lifter, being adjective, adverb, noun, predeterminer, and pronoun. What half is not is a verb. That’s where halve comes in. It handles all the action.

As for halve and have, it’s similar to the issue in the mistaken of — a mistake in hearing, which makes this a pair of heterographs (a subset of homophone).

You already know that halve is the verb form of half. Have is about possession, when you get right down to it.

I suppose you could have half of what’s been halved…

The Have / Have Got Issue

There are three issues that involve the have:

  1. Which to use in formal writing
  2. The mistake of of
  3. The superfluous have

Formal versus Informal Haves

Have got is widely used in both American and British English, however…have got is more appropriate for informal use in dialogue — spoken or thought. Consider your character and whether their nature is a relaxed or friendly one and their level of education.

Keep in mind that the American definition of got implies a state of possession or ownership. So have got is has something.

The Mistake of Of

It’s a case of mistaken “identity”, as we hear might’a, but it is actually might’ve, i.e., might have. And yes, this also applies to could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve.

Do explore the post “Might’a not be a Could’a, Would’a, Should’a” for more details.

The Superfluous Have

Sometimes writers get a little crazy and add an extra have where it shouldn’t be.

I might have missed it if you hadn’t have pointed it out

The better choice would have been:

if you hadn’t pointed it out

Admittedly, the double haves, ahem, have been around since the 15th century. But it’s always been in a situation that is hypothetical…with if statements. And still not considered proper English.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Half vs Halve vs Have” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Half Halve Have
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: half, halve, and have; Lexico: half; Oxford Dictionaries: have

Man is covering half of his face with his hand

Half by Armando Mejía is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Flickr.

An apple cut in half with one half cut in half, making quarters

An Apple Halved is in the public domain, via pxhere.

First the apple was halved, then half of it was halved again.

Colorful cartoon of a besuited man goggling at a poster of a giant fish

Oh Boy! What Big Fish They Have Here, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago World’s Fair, 1933, by an unknown author is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection at the Newberry Library.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Adverb; Noun; Predeterminer; Pronoun

Plural for noun: halves

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: halves
Past tense or past participle: halved
Gerund or present participle: halving

Noun; Verb, auxiliary;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: haves
Present tense: have
(Third person present verb also may use the archaic: hath)
Past tense and past participle: had

(Second person past tense also may use the archaic: hadst, haddest)
Gerund or present participle: having

An amount equal to a half

Being half or about half of anything in degree, amount, length, etc.

Partial or incomplete

In or to the extent or measure of half

  • [Often in combination] To some or a certain extent
  • Almost
  • Partly
  • In part
  • Incompletely

Either of two equal or corresponding parts into which something is or can be divided

  • Either of two equal periods of time into which a sports game or a performance is divided
  • [Golf] A score for an individual hole that is the same as one’s opponent’s
  • [Sports] Short for halfback, an offensive back usually positioned behind the quarterback and to the side of the fullback

[Informal] A half-price fare or ticket, especially for a child

A quantity or amount equal to such a part (½)

One of two

  • A part of a pair

[Informal] Half dollar

  • The sum of 50 cents

[Baseball] Either of the two units of play into which an inning is divided, the visiting team batting in the first unit and the home team batting in the second

[British; informal] A half-crown coin

  • The sum of a half crown (two shillings, sixpence)
  • A half pint

An amount equal to a half

  • Amounting to a part thought of as roughly a half

An amount equal to a half

  • Amounting to a part thought of as roughly a half
Verb, intransitive:
Reduce or be reduced by half

Verb, transitive:
Reduce or be reduced by half

Divide into two parts of equal or roughly equal size

  • To share equally

[Golf] To play (a hole, round, or match) in the same number of strokes as one’s opponent

[Usually as noun halving] Fit (crossing timbers) together by cutting out half the thickness of each

[Informal; usually haves] People with plenty of money and possessions

[British] A swindle

Verb, auxiliary:
Used with a past participle to form the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect tenses, and the conditional mood

[Followed by infinitival to, with or without a main verb] To be required, compelled, or under obligation

Verb, intransitive:
To be in possession of money or wealth

Verb, transitive:
[Also have got] Possess, own, or hold

  • Possess or be provided with (a quality, characteristic, or feature)
  • [Chiefly North American; informal; have oneself] Provide or indulge oneself with (something)
  • Be made up of
  • Comprise
  • Used to indicate a particular relationship
  • Be able to make use of (something available or at one’s disposal)
  • Have gained (a qualification)
  • Possess as an intellectual attainment
  • Know (a language or subject)


  • Undergo
  • [Also have got] Suffer from (an illness, ailment, or disability)
  • [Also have got] Let (a feeling or thought) come into one’s mind
  • Hold in the mind
  • [With past participle] Experience or suffer the specified action happening or being done to (something)
  • Cause (someone or something) to be in a particular state or condition
  • [With past participle] Cause (something) to be done for one by someone else
  • Tell or arrange for something to be done
  • [Informal; also have got] Have put (someone) at a disadvantage in an argument (said either to acknowledge that one has no answer to a point or to show that one knows one’s opponent has no answer)
  • [Informal; usually be had] Cheat or deceive (someone)
  • [Vulgar slang] Engage in sexual intercourse with (someone)

[Have to do something or have got to do something] Be obliged or find it necessary to do the specified thing

  • Need or be obliged to do (something)
  • Be strongly recommended to do something
  • Be certain or inevitable to happen or be the case

Perform the action indicated by the noun specified (used especially in spoken English as an alternative to a more specific verb)

  • Organize and bring about
  • Eat or drink
  • Give birth to or be due to give birth to

[Also have got] Show (a personal attribute or quality) by one’s actions or attitude

  • [Often in imperative] Exercise or show (mercy, pity, etc.) toward another person
  • [With negative] Not accept
  • Refuse to tolerate

[Also have got] Place or keep (something) in a particular position

  • Hold or grasp (someone or something) in a particular way

Be the recipient of (something sent, given, or done)

  • Take or invite into one’s home so as to provide care or entertainment, especially for a limited period
In the last half century, computer chips have reduced in physical size while increasing their capacity.

We’re down to a half quart.

He’s at half speed.

I’ve only gathered up a half sleeve.

These are only half measures.

She always saw the glass as half full.

The chicken is half-cooked.

It was only half understood.

Petey was half recovered from last night.

It’s been two and a half years since I saw him.

They live on the northern half of the island.

Margie! It’s been reduced by half!

If it’s divided in half, we can each have some.

You don’t know the half of it.

Dang, I missed the first half.

If your daughter is under twelve, she qualifies for a half.

She holed from six feet for a half at the seventeenth.

If he plays half for the Knights today, I hope the selectors watch him.

Four dimes and two nickels make a half.

He ordered a half of bitter.

The children will be released from school in half an hour.

Almost half the children turned up.

Half the letters were sent first class.

Half of the lectures are delivered by him.

A full half of them are gate-crashers.

Verb, intransitive:
Profits are expected to halve after a tail-off in new customers.

Soft-boil four eggs and cool immediately, peel, and halve.

Pre-tax profits nearly halved to $5 million.

The cost of sales roughly halved from $7.2m to $3.7m during the period.

Between 1812 to 1814, wheat, barley, and oats all roughly halved in price.

Verb, transitive:
Peel, halve and de-root the onion, and chop finely.

She halved her rations with a stranger.

Next, peel and halve the pears.

He pledged to halve the deficit over the next four years.

She insisted on halving the bill.

They halved the match.

Megan and Jenn halved that hole.

Lapping is performed in a variety of ways — either by simply halving the end of each timber, or by halving and dovetailing.

There is an increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

It can lead to bitter divisions and increase the psychological and social distance between the haves and the have nots.

It also encourages the haves to donate 2.5 percent of their income to the poor.

I have to say, this whole tropical island thing is a bit of a have.

Verb, auxiliary:
I have finished.

He had asked her.

She will have left by now.

I could have helped, had I known.

“Have you seen him?” “Yes, I have.”

She has gone.

It would have been an enjoyable party if he hadn’t felt downcast.

I have to leave now.

I didn’t want to study, but I had to.

Verb, intransitive:
There are some who have and some who have not.

Verb, transitive:
He had a new car and a boat.

Have you got a job yet?

I don’t have that much money on me.

He’s got the equipment with him.

The ham had a sweet, smoky flavor.

She’s got blue eyes.

The house has gas heat.

He had himself two highballs.

in 1989 the party had 10,000 members.

He’s got three children.

Do you have a client named Pedersen?

How much time have I got for the presentation?

He’s got a BA in English.

She knew Latin and Greek; I had only a little French.

I went to a few parties and had a good time.

I was having difficulty in keeping awake.

I’ve got a headache.

He had the strong impression that someone was watching him.

We’ve got a few ideas we’re kicking around.

I’ve no doubt he’s as busy as I am.

She had her bag stolen.

I want to have everything ready in good time.

I had the TV on with the sound turned down.

It is advisable to have your carpet laid by a professional.

She’s always having the builders in to do something.

She had her long hair cut.

You’ve got me there; I’ve never given the matter much thought.

I realized I’d been had.

Yeah, I had her last week.

You don’t have to accept this situation.

We’ve got to plan for the future.

She’s got a lot to do.

If you think that place is great, you have to try our summer house.

There has to be a catch.

He had a look around.

The color green has a restful effect.

Are you going to have a party?

I’ll have the vegetable plate.

She’s going to have a baby.

He had little patience with technological gadgetry.

If you’ve got the drive to finish your degree, then do it.

God have mercy on me!

I can’t have you insulting Tom like that.

Mary had her back to me.

I soon had the trout in a net.

He had me by the throat.

She had a letter from Mark.

We’re having the children for the weekend.

Adjective: half-and-half, half-ass, half-arse [British], half-assed, half-arsed [British], half-baked, half-bred, half-caf, half-cocked, half-completed, half-conscious, half-cut [British], half-done, half-duplex, half-finished, half-hardy, half-hourly, half-integral, half-length, half-round, half-size, half-starved, half-timbered, half-yearly, halfhearted, halfway, halfwitted
Adverb: half-and-half, half-yearly, halfheartedly, half-hourly, halfway, halfwittedly
Noun: half-and-half, half-bottle, half-bred, half-breed, half-brother, half-caf, half-caste, half-court, half-cup, half-door, half-dozen, half-integer, half-length, half-life, half-light, half-mast, half-moon, half-move, half-sister, half-slip, half-staff, half-tester, half-timbering, half-track, half-truth, half-volley, halfback, halfpence [British], halfpennies [British], halfpenny [British], halfpennyworth [British], halfpipe, halftime, halftone, halfwit, halfwittedness
Verb: half-ass, half-arse [British]
Adjective: unhalved
Noun: halving
Phrasal Verb
have at
have got something on
have someone on
have something on
have something out
History of the Word:
The earliest meaning of the Germanic base was side; it was also a noun sense in Old English.

Old English half, healf, is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch half, the Old Frisian, the Old Saxon half, the Old High German halb, the Old Norse halfr, and the Gothic halbs (adjectives).

Old English hielfan is related to the Middle High German helben.

By Middle English, it became halven, a derivative from half:

  • C.1200, it became halfen meaning to divide in halves.
  • C.1400, it came to mean to reduce by half.
Old English habban is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch hebben and the German haben.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Joinery-Simple Halved by Crati and 4′ Sliding Table Saw by ToolSpirit are both under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license via Wikimedia Commons.

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