There are seven adults, and half of them are tall. Then, it doesn’t make sense, or three and a half are tall?

But apart from the context, if we consider them as a group, not individually, can half of the group mean three and a half?

  • 1
    Grammar and meaning are two different things. The sentence "the green hippo jumped over the chocolate river" is a pretty ridiculous sentence in meaning, but it is grammatically fine. If you're interested in the philosophy of this, look up "colorless green ideas sleep furiously"; if you're interested in learning regular English, don't worry about it too much.
    – IMSoP
    Sep 12 at 14:05
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    This is not an English question. It would be false in your language also. Not everything can be halved.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20 at 14:18
  • @Lambie But I can’t imagine a collective noun is treated both collectively and individually in my language. Sep 20 at 14:19
  • @Lambie There is a similar term 가족들 중 절반, but it means halves of my family. Sep 20 at 14:23
  • Because people are not apples or number sets.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20 at 14:40

This is a question of scale and significant figures.

At a basic level, one adult indivisible. You cannot have "half of a tall adult." So if you have a group of seven adults and divide the group in half, you will not end up with two groups of three-and-a-half adults each. Instead you will have one group of three and one group of four; it is impossible to divide a group of an odd number of adults into two precisely even halves. This is an inherent property of integers, not a question of language.

You can increase the number of adults in the group while keeping the number of significant figures the same. For example, assume you now have seven thousand adults, and you say "half of them are tall." That means that approximately 3500 adults are tall, but due to the imprecision in the original number (only one significant figure) it would be incorrect to assume that exactly 3500 are tall and exactly 3500 are short. However, if you express the division as a percentage you can use additional significant figures to constrain the answer, for example by saying "There are 7000 adults, and 50.00% of them are tall."

But you still cannot have half a person. It does not make sense to say "There are 7001 adults, and 50.00% of them are tall" because that leaves you with 3500.5 tall adults, and that does not make any sense. In that case, better to say simply "half of them are tall" (implying "about half of them are tall"). Better yet would be to explicitly qualify the adjective "half" to make it clear that you are not claiming precision, and say "about half" in the first place instead of implying it.

  • Even though considering them as a group, can’t I indicate three and a half? Sep 20 at 14:13
  • Absolutely not @Gate. How can half-a-person be tall? Or how can a person be half-tall? It makes no sense. Think about what you actually mean (either three or four of them are tall) and say that.
    – randomhead
    Sep 20 at 14:38
  • I don't understand why you fell for this and I object to the bounty. Can't even vote to close.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20 at 14:39
  • 1
    @GatePending you can cut up apples; you can't cut up people,or at least not without severe consequences. So people are indivisible unlike apples. That said, if you had a bag of apples, told me you'd eaten half, and I found that the bag originally contained 7, I wouldn't be surprised to learn you'd eaten 3 or 4. Similarly we can talk about "the big half" and "the little half", and make sense, while annoying logicians. Rounding may be assumed.
    – Chris H
    Sep 20 at 15:07
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    @GatePending as I said, you can cut up apples, so you can eat 3.5=0.5*7. But half can also mean "approximately half", i.e. 3 or 4 apples - multilpe meanings . In the case of indivisible living people it must be interpreted as approximately half.
    – Chris H
    Sep 20 at 15:22

There are seven adults, and half of them are tall. Seven halved is three and a half; three and a half times two equals seven, So there are three and a half tall adults; three adults and a half adult. Teens are half adult half child. So there are three tall adults and a tall teenager who is a half adult half child.

The tall adults are men and the short adults are the woman. One of the tall adult may be a woman and one of the short adult may be a man. The tall young adult is the guy and the short young adult is the girl. So there are three tall men, three short women, a young guy, and a young girl. This is a family.

  • 1
    There are seven adults. A minor, someone under the age of 18, is not normally referred to as an adult.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 20 at 18:41
  • @Mari-LouA A minor (teenager or adolescent) is a half adult half child. Two halves make a whole. Two half adults make an adult. Sep 20 at 18:45
  • 1
    There are 7 adults. What next? Are you going to argue that 4 children each aged 4 years and 4 months make up an adult? Please.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 20 at 18:53
  • Even if you think a teen is a half-adult, the problem statement itself says, "There are seven adults." That means, no teens, so that can't be the answer
    – gotube
    Sep 23 at 3:00

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