The following example is from Cambridge dictionary:

A: Want some sugar in your coffee?

B: Only half a spoon, please

They categorise 'only' as an adverb phrase, which I agree with; however, they consider 'half' as a word that modifies the adverb. I'm of the opinion that 'half' modifies, or describes 'spoon'. So why isn't 'half' an adjective that describes 'spoon' in this sentence?

1 Answer 1


You could consider "half" an adjective that modifies "spoon". However, be aware that a determiner is usually the first element in a noun phrase, so it is unusual to put "half" before "a". You'd have to consider this an idiomatic construction.

Another interpretation is also possible: that the word "of" has been omitted. Therefore, the complete phrase would be "only half of a spoon".

You may be interested in the answers to these questions:
"More than half" or "More than half of"
"half of pound" or "half of a pound" or "half pound"

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