I saw many times that the word "halfway" is used together with the word "down", and for me it's not understood why we cannot use in these sentences "halfway up".

An example for such sentence:

The bird had it nest on a ledge halfway down the cliff.

since we are talking about a cliff then it doesn't make sense to me why we should use here "down" rather than "up". Do we normally start from top to the bottom or opposite? As I understand it, we should start from the bottom to top. Isn't it?

enter image description here

  • 10
    Both are used. Nursery rhyme Grand Old Duke of York has "and when they were only halfway up ..". I guess in your example it is because the point of view is from the top of the cliffs. There are many coastal cliff-top paths in the UK, and especially in some of the small islands where the focus is on the living spaces at the tops of the cliffs.
    – djna
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 5:14
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    The choice of perspective is the speaker's. If the speaker describes a cliff as seen from the top, halfway down is natural, just as halfway up is natural to a speaker describing a cliff as seen from the bottom. Neither perspective is "usually" favored. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 5:44
  • So my impression about it (according to the frequency of the uses of "halfway up" that I saw) was wrong. Thank you. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 7:22
  • It might depend on the direction of travel that the bird (or other object) would continue in Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 8:49
  • 2
    If you were at the foot of the cliff, the nest would be halfway up ... but you probably wouldn't be able to see it! Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


Why usually is the word “halfway” used with “down” rather than “up”?

I doubted that. I can't imagine that there is some kind of rule to use down rather than up. It's possible, but I didn't see one. I looked to Ngram. enter image description here

So the usage looks roughly even, at least in recent years.

One reason you might use one over the other is perspective. For example, in a larger context (like a story), if you want your audience to visualize themselves looking down at the nest (fixed, not moving), then you might use halfway down. If you want your audience to visualize themselves looking up (at the base of the cliff) at the nest, then you might use halfway up.

In a slightly different use, imagine a group that is at the top of a cliff and they have a friend climbing up. He reaches the halfway point and one of the friends reports "He's halfway up the cliff." In this case, halfway up implies that he is moving and he is moving up. You can construct a similar case for halfway down.

The given exercise/example is so brief that I don't really see a difference. It's possible that the author was "looking down" or wanted the reader to look down, but I think either choice, down or up, is equally likely and acceptable.


If I were standing at the bottom, the nest would be halfway up the cliff.

If I were at the top, the nest would be halfway down.

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