Suppose the cost of a product used to be $100 and now the seller has discounted it to $50.

Which preposition is appropriate here ("by", "in", "to", ...):

The seller cut the price ... half?

Can I also avoid using any proposition here and use half as an adverb?

  • 1
    Half could be used as an adjective, modifying price: “The seller cut half the price.” It’s not idiomatic for me, but I would use it of, say, work hours: “The boss cut half [of] John’s hours.” I can’t imagine a structure where it would be an adverb, though. Oct 4, 2022 at 6:49
  • 3
    By might be perfect one.
    – Sam
    Oct 4, 2022 at 10:27
  • 8
    Cutting to a half is the same as cutting by a half. But cutting to a third is not at all the same as cutting by a third. Oct 4, 2022 at 19:51
  • (The phrase that gets me is "everything up to 50% off". Which presumably means that some things are 1% off and some are 2% off.) Oct 4, 2022 at 19:58
  • 3
    "in half" feels like the most natural phrasing. "by half" also works but would not be my first choice. Nobody would say "to half". Oct 6, 2022 at 0:10

7 Answers 7


All of those prepositions could be correct in this context, but it's worth knowing what they all mean so you can use them correctly in different situations.

To cut something by an amount means that amount is removed from it.

To cut something to an amount means that amount is what remains.

To cut something in an amount means it is divided into that many pieces or portions.

So, let's say we have a box with 20 books.

  • If we cut the books by 2, we now have 18 books.
  • If we cut the books to 2, we now have 2 books.
  • If we cut the (group of) books in 2, we now have 2 piles of 10 books.
  • 5
    Except if we cut the books in half, we now have 2 piles of 10 books each. I might suggest "cut the books in 2" is awkward, perhaps becoming archaic, and should be avoided for that reason. Oct 4, 2022 at 0:53
  • 22
    I’m not sure books make for a happy example here, at least not with “in”. When you write about cutting books, my first thought is that you mean slicing paper, not reducing quantity! Oct 4, 2022 at 6:44
  • 2
    The issue being pointed out here with books/in is related to "book" being able to be literally cut. If instead you referred to something that cannot obviously be physically cut (e.g. a price, a salary, ...) or are actually talking about physical cutting (e.g. a plank), the issue is resolved.
    – Flater
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:55
  • 8
    I think that if you have 20 apples, and cut the apples in two, then you end up with 40 half-apples. Cutting books in two is not as easy as cutting apples, however. Oct 4, 2022 at 19:53
  • 5
    Correctly you should be using "amount of" in all of the book example: If we cut the amount of books by 2, we now have 18 books. If we cut the amount of books to 2, we now have 2 books. If we cut the amount of books in 2, we now have 2 piles of 10 books. Phrased the way it was it is ambiguous if you are cutting the books or the amount.
    – Momus
    Oct 4, 2022 at 22:24

Can I also avoid using any preposition here and use half as an adverb?

It would be a verb, and the verb form is halve: "The seller halved the price."

  • Ah, yes! Though this is not so common in current U.S. English, I think. Oct 4, 2022 at 17:42
  • 8
    @paulgarrett, sellers halving prices may not be common anywhere, as the economy stands. As a US English speaker, however, I find nothing linguistically odd about the phrasing.
    – Matthew
    Oct 5, 2022 at 18:21

Cut the price in half and by half mean the same thing. You take whatever the price is now, and you reduce it by 50%.

However, cutting the price to half, may have a different meaning. That would imply that the price is reduced to 50% of whatever the original price was. So if the item was already discounted by 20%, it would now be discounted by 50%.

To clarify this, lets assume we have two items, one with no discount (A) costing £1, and one with a pre-existing 20% discount (B) with an original price of £1.

If the price was now cut by or in half:

A now costs £0.50. B now costs £0.40 (0.8x0.5)

If the price was cut to half:

A now costs £0.50 B now costs £0.50


Yes all of "by", "in" or "to" mean this. "By" is probably the most common.

The word "cut" is going to need a direct and indirect object and so will need a preposition. Some other formulations can avoid the preposition by using "half price" as a phrase.

The seller made it half price

It's worth pointing out that for numbers other than half "by" and "to" mean different things, and "in" would not be used.

The $30 price was cut by a third. It's now $20.

The $30 price was cut to a third. It's now $10.

  • I fundamentally disagree... In the case where there is already a discount on an item, by and in would apply a further 50% discount to the discounted price, whereas cutting it to half would cut it to half of the original price Oct 4, 2022 at 14:19
  • I would say that in the variations of American English with which I am most familiar, "in" would be usual choice of the three, "by" would be understood but probably not used, and "to" would be very unlikely and possibly not understood. Oct 4, 2022 at 15:14
  • 2
    Worth noting that "by" and "to" are only interchangeable here since 50% happens to be both the portion being discounted as well as the portion remaining. If a seller cuts the price by 60%, you pay 40%, but if he cuts the price to 60%, you pay 60%. I'd argue that "by" and "to" don't actually carry the same meaning here, it's just a mathematical fluke that makes them both work in this instance. Oct 4, 2022 at 18:29
  • 1
    Cut the price in half: OK Cut the price by half: OK But not: cut the price to half. I think it's a good idea to stick to the question.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2022 at 15:13
  • I utterly and completely disagree with the correctness of "The $30 price was cut to a third." At least in America...
    – RonJohn
    Oct 5, 2022 at 19:32

This looks to me like a Marketing language question.

The most effective would be: Cut the price IN half.

Cut the price BY half would work, but loses the impact of the cutting.

Cut the price TO half sounds a bit weak as it is.

you could use...

  • Slashed the price IN half
  • Reduced the price BY half
  • Lowered the price TO half

Cut/slash works well due to creating violent and desperate imagery in the customer's mind, which leads to urgency.


When it comes to prices, the word "cut" is being used metaphorically, as if the seller is pulling out a knife or a pair of scissors and cutting it into pieces. With this in mind, you cut things in half.

You can get away with cutting prices by half, but it sure sounds weird to cut anything else by half. It seems to me that this is from mixing the phrase "reduce the prices by half" with the cutting metaphor.

Cutting prices to half does not work well, but it can be unambiguously understood. Better would be cutting prices down to half, short for "cutting prices down to half of what they were." It is still awkward, but at least it is using a cutting things down metaphor. Wben using "to," I think it's better using the verb "reduce" than "cut," like "reduced to half price."


To cut something in half leaves you with both halves to do as you will. For example, if you broke a KitKat in half you could eat one half and then eat the other.

Cutting a price 'in' half does not make sense. You are not left with two halves. Half has gone.

Cutting something by half means that you have reduced it by 50%. That is the idiomatic choice in your example. You'll also see plenty of occasions where sales advertising says they have cut (or reduced) prices by "*up to [x]%". You couldn't cut something 'in' a percentage, and 'half' is of course 50%.

I see from votes that some disagree with my answer, but I'm happy to stand by it as I know it is correct. I work in data analysis where mathematical terminology is very important. I've also worked in sales and know how much thought goes into the precise wording of things like advertising price cuts. Some people may casually say a price has been cut 'in' half, but you've come here for the right answer, and the right answer is that 'by' is the idiomatic choice.

  • 8
    cutting prices in half is definitely used although I tend to associate it with the sort of melodramatic adverts you get for furniture store and used car sales you get on daytime tv. "In" does not necessarily mean both halves are usable either, one can cut a post in half (with a horizontal cut) and only the bottom half is still a post
    – Tristan
    Oct 4, 2022 at 8:45
  • 7
    Colloquially, we use "cut in half" all the time with abstract concepts to mean "cut by half", regardless of what it would literally mean, words like like "prices/chances/odds/etc."
    – gotube
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:58
  • It might be used by some people, but it isn't the right choice if you think about it.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 5, 2022 at 7:32
  • I actually agree with you. When you cut something in half, there are two things. But people do say informally, to cut the price in half. So, it depends on whom you are addressing and why. I really hate downvotes on answers like these.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2022 at 15:18
  • 3
    A phrase being the most technically correct when you think about the implications does not make it "the idiomatic choice."
    – MJD
    Oct 5, 2022 at 20:17

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