I know and have seen all the three words used in various context and it interests me whether they are interchangeable most of the time or they are bound to areas of usage?

Can slice, split and divide be used with more than two parts, pieces?

Can we divide, slice or split along a line or at some point?

Can all the three words be used with planes, 3d-objects, hard and soft surfaces?

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    I consider slicing to be one method of splitting (with a sharp object), and splitting to be one method of dividing (separating one thing into two, rather than separating a collection into two subsets). I'm interested to see if the rest of the community sees them similarly. – Davo May 9 '17 at 14:08

Slice - Cut into thin strips. Can also mean to smoothly cut with a knife or blade, whether making cuts in something, or cutting completely through something. A graceful, fluid, thin movement through something that separates that something can be called a slice.

Split - Separate into portions neatly. This can refer to distributing many pieces of something, breaking something into portions, or cutting something into portions. There is no implication on the shape of the pieces, but somewhat of a n implication that the pieces are the same size unless you say otherwise. If you split something with a blade, and it's not in half, it could be assumed to be a heavy blade like an axe.

Divide - Simply means to make or keep separated. Things that are divided may not have been one unit and may not need to be cut with anything. Can be used for things like groups of people, etc. Can have an implication that you want to keep things apart or separate and not have them mix for some reason.

You can slice, split, and divide things into more than 2 pieces. Divide is the most abstract of the terms.

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Although all three words have very similar meanings, they are not necessarily interchangeable.

Slice is most commonly associated with food, and the word by itself does not suggest a division of two equal parts. An example:

Can you slice those tomatoes for me?

Also, slice suggests a more precise division. On the other hand, split is usually considered to suggest a division of two parts and is less precise.

I used an axe to split the coconut.

Finally, divide is the most versatile word of the three and generally does not suggest a particular amount of divisions unless otherwise indicated. Other uses of the word include mathematics.

The work was divided evenly and fairly between the group members.

Ten divided by two equals five.

Divide and split are used when doing so upon a particular line or point.

I am by no means a certified linguist and am only making suggestions based off experience as a native speaker.

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Slice is a word generally reserved for food. Slice is quite tied to the idea of cutting with a sharp utensil like a knife, and thus it's really only used for food-related splitting. It's often worded like to slice up something.

Split implies an idea of equity; that the splitting involved is roughly equal unless otherwise specified. It also implies a tacit approval of the splitting amongst all the interested parties.

Divide is generally a more forceful term. To be divided is to be in disagreement and the use of divide generally follows this theme. You'll often see it used in anything conflict-related or where the splitting is forcefully uneven. However, it is also used in a more mathematical sense when you're splitting things into discrete sets, such as if you were to divide up pairs of socks.

With regards to lines, divide is the word most often associated with them. The phrase dividing line is quite common.

Of course, as with most things in English, there are contexts where more than one, if not all of these terms could theoretically be used interchangeably.

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  • I'd like to add that slice is interesting because you can slice up metaphorical food too. Pie is a word often used metaphorically, and you can use slice to describe apportioning it. For instance, if you were to refer to the controlling shares of a company as an ownership pie, you could talk about slicing up that pie to refer to giving out percentages of shares. – Cantalouping May 9 '17 at 14:12
  • I've sliced my finger open more than once. Hopefully not considered food. – Davo May 9 '17 at 14:41
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    Hopefully not, but I see fingers (and other body parts) in this context as being kinda analogous to meat or flesh, and flesh can definitely can be sliced. – Cantalouping May 9 '17 at 14:48

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