One third/one-third

Discussion in 'English Only' started by andersxman, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. andersxman Senior Member

    Denmark/danish
    I just googled "one third" (as in 33,3333%) and I see that at times it's hyphenated ("one-third") and other times it's not. Should it be?

    "one(-)half" also shows up hyphenated and not..
     
  2. A90Six Senior Member

    London
    England - English.
    Unless it it being used as an adjectival phrase I would not use the hyphen:
    • I own one third of this property.
    • I have a one-third share in this property.
    Personally, I would use a third or a half in all cases and thus avoid the need for a hyphen at all.

    EDIT: I was wrong! I have since learned that fractions are almost always hyphenated.
     
  3. andersxman Senior Member

    Denmark/danish
    I did consider replacing "one" with "a", but opted for "one" because it is much more frequently used - according to Google!

    Thank you for your explanation, it was very clear.
     
  4. A90Six Senior Member

    London
    England - English.
    Google:

    "One third" (web: 76,300,000 - uk: 4,830,000)
    "A third" (web: 289,000,000 - uk: 22,000,000)
     
  5. southerngal Senior Member

    American English
    In American English, the fraction 1/3 is written out this way: one-third (obviously with a hyphen).

    A third is informal. One-third is technically how the fraction should be written.

    I'd be careful with Google. There are many, many people in the world using computers, and many of the people aren't necessarily well-versed in the use of language.
     
  6. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    When a fraction is considered a single quantity, it is hyphenated {She has read three-quarters of the book} Chicago Manual of Style

    She has read one-half of the book.
     
  7. andersxman Senior Member

    Denmark/danish
    Yes, but I reckon that you get more hits with "a third" because a lot of phrases that include "a third world war", "a third goal" etc. are included in your hits.

    To avoid these phrases you might google:

    "one third of the total" (1.170.000 per "one third of the total".)
    "a third of the total" (270.000 per "a third of the total". )
     
  8. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    Manuals of style notwithstanding, hyphenated fractions that aren't being used as compound adjectives always look wrong to me.
     
  9. Monkey F B I Senior Member

    Acton, MA
    English - USA
    I would always just use "A third" for informal writing.
     
  10. Hello all!!
    Dictionaries do not seem to give a conclusive advice on this matter.
    Which is the more officially adopted spelling of "one third": with or without a hyphen?
     
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Both, sorry.
    It depends on context.
    What do you want to say about it?
    See above :)
    'Tis a wonderful thing, the WordReference Dictionary.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2009
  12. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    As a noun: He ate one third of the pie. (Grammatically the same as He ate one piece of the pie.)
    As part of a compound adjective: Each person is entitled to a one-third portion of the pie.
    Some manuals of style have mysteriously become infected with the notion that the noun form of a fraction should be hyphenated, but that is just plain wrong.
     
  13. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I was taught to always hyphenate if I spell out fractions and haven't seen the need to deviate from that rule: one-third, three-quarters.

    But of course no hyphen for a third or a quarter.
     
  14. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    I would argue to your teachers that a and one or three are grammatical equivalents in your examples. Another angle:
    If third and share are both nouns, why would you say
    she ate three-quarters of the pie

    and not
    she ate three-shares of the pie?
     
  15. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I have to say that, to me, it looks weird like that. It begs for

    "But she hasn't read the other-half of the book"

    which I've never seen (although I haven't looked on g**gle).

    Rightly or wrongly, I think I only hyphenate when it is an adjectival phrase : "They've already played three quarters of the game" but "The cup is only three-quarters full."
     
  16. Redshade Banned

    UK
    English.
    A third, one third, hyphenated or not I can just imagine the Metrication Police in Brussels having a "light-bulb" moment: "Ah-ha! Another couple of words (of the people's language) that we can ban".

    Henceforth it SHALL be "33.3333%".:eek:


    Crikey,the disturbing thing is that I could really believe that this could happen.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2009
  17. WriterGuy Member

    Atlanta, GA, USA
    English - American
    If you're in an environment which uses the Associated Press Stylebook, fractions less than one are spelled out using a hyphen, such as one-third. Numbers greater than one with a fractional part are written as numerals, such as 2 2/3.
     
  18. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    Yes. And if you are in that environment, you are in one that uses an erroneous style guide, no matter how widely used it may be.
     
  19. Wodwo Senior Member

    London UK
    UK English
    While with my head I agree with the people who say you shouldn't hyphenate (there's no logical reason to do so), faced with this problem in a translation for a website, I think "one third" is less clear than "one-third", which links the two words together and makes it instantly clear that this is a fraction.

    Horses for courses, as the saying goes. We can do that with English, because there's no one to tell us we can't.
     
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It all depends on what the "one" is.
    If "one" is a determiner, then I wouldn't hyphenate.

    Billy cut the pizza into three equal pieces. He gave one third to Amy, another third to Charlie, and the last third to Dave.

    Billy cut the pizza into three pieces. He gave one-third to Amy, two-fifths to Charlie, and the remaining (pause for arithmetic) four-fifteenths to Dave.
     
  21. Wodwo Senior Member

    London UK
    UK English
    Indeed, nice distinction.
     
  22. Unpossible

    Unpossible New Member

    English
    Three-shares doesn't denote a specific fraction, whereas three-quarters does.
     
  23. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    If by "specific fraction" you mean an exact numerical expression written out in words, "three quarters" is how that is expressed. There is no need whatsoever to hyphenate it. Hyphenating in such a case is merely perpetuating an affectation that made its way into style guides some time ago.
     
  24. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Well, it was indeed a "neologism" in 1840 or so in American English and it took over around 1860, but the hyphenated version "three-quarters of" is now about twice as common than the one lacking a hyphen ( even more so in BE). It seems that the style itself changed "some time ago" and the current guides only reflect that. You need to go back in time to tell them how wrong they were back then with their "affectation", otherwise, it's too late for grumbling:)
     
  25. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    Argumentum ad populum, eh? Anyway, I didn't mean to come across all grumbly. Though my country's "journalists" and politicians leave me with little hope for the English language, I still resist mistakes being codified in a reference work on the basis that they have been widely aped. Two editions ago, the yucky non-word "incentivize" was only acknowledged in the AHD as a "usage problem". Now they've caved and given it its own entry. I don't see that as evolution, but rather as a lack of adult supervision.
     
  26. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Indeed! We each have our own threshold for how far back in time we will go before we accept as "standard" what was once considered to be an error :D At some point, Safire's "motto" "When enough of them (us) are wrong they (we)'re right", the parentheses dividing those who have accepted from those who have not yet:)
     
  27. EHM

    EHM New Member

    Cape Cod, MA, US
    US English
    Ah, Safire...I miss "On Language", and a time when Americans would understand such a column.
    I'll remain in here in 1839, I think, and observe the crumbling of the language from outside, never sticking even a toe into the hyphenated-fraction parentheses.
     

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