This isn't half bad...


Senior Member
Korea, Korean
"Wow. This house isn't half bad for college kids."

What does "half" mean here?
  • Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    It's never quite straightforward, is it?

    My understanding is that, in AE, 'not half bad' means 'good'
    Not sure whether the converse is true - does 'not half good' mean 'bad'?

    In BE, however, if you prefix an adjective with 'not half ....', then you mean 'completely ....'

    So if you say 'She's not half good-looking', you're declaring that she's very beautiful, and if you say 'That wasn't half boring', you were bored to tears.

    Consequently, I would understand 'not half bad' to mean 'very bad' in BE - only I think that American usage is beginning to reverse the meaning of that particular phrase.

    Maybe the word order is the key:
    'That wasn't half a bad decision' = No good
    'That wasn't a half bad decision' = Very good.

    What do others think?


    Senior Member
    First of all, I've never heard someone say "not half good" unless it is used in the context Trisia used. In America, "not half" is used with the negetive, and almost always with the phrase "not half bad". I'm not sure about BE, but you seem to use it completely differently. My sister spent some time in Wales for a year and picked up many BE manners of speaking, and I've noticed that she uses "not half" just like you, and everyone mistakes her meaning. It depends on the context of the writing, but I'm almost certain that this means that it's good. Not amazing, but certainly better than expected. This is commonly used with food.


    The dumb guys look at a luxury mansion and think it needs improving (I think the first speaker is sarcastic though):
    -- Boy, this is quite a shack, huh, Har?
    -- Yeah, but I bet if you pulled the weeds off the walls and slapped up some aluminum siding, it wouldn't be half bad.
    Dumb and Dumber To, movie

    It isn't "half as bad as we thought it would be".

    I wonder, would it in my example mean "It wouldn't be half as bad as it had been." ? Thank you.


    Not really, Vik. It would mean the mansion would be 'pretty good' [#5].
    Could you please tell me how "not half bad" grammatically means "pretty good"?... I mean, is it like "it is less than half bad", right? I just don't understand the logic of the phrase.