We can say "The company earnings has doubled/tripled over the period".

My question is - are there negative counterparts for doubled/tripled for the cases when some value lost 50% or 66% of its initial number?

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    I can only think or sth that is halved. For others I would use decrease by e.g. one third. But I'm not a native :-) – Avigrail Jan 15 '15 at 10:07
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    @bobbee - If earnings were 3M last year and 1.5M this year, then, yes, the earnings have halved. If they were 3M last year and 2M this year, then they decreased by one-thirds. That all said, if losses were 2M last year and 4M this year, then losses were doubled – even though that's in the negative direction. – J.R. Jan 15 '15 at 10:21

Halved is the only word in regular use when talking about reductions, beyond this we would tend to give a more wordy explanation. "Quartered" could just about work as it does mean "split into 4", but would sound very strange even to a native speaker and should be avoided.

A native would usually structure the sentence using one of the following formats

The company earnings reduced by 40% over the period

(ie they are now 60% of the original, having lost 40%)


The company earnings dropped to 40% of the previous year

(ie they are now 40% of the original, having lost 60%)

We may use percentages or fractions in these sentences, eg the earnings may drop by 20%, or by 1/5. They may drop to 25%, or to 1/4. Note that this is always given with reference to the original amount.

You will almost certainly see, at some stage, some confusion at some stage between reducing by and reducing to - a combination of a lack of understanding of language and/or mathematics. This is fairly common when the media report on statistics...

  • Originally, decimated meant reduced to 10% of the starting amount, but now it is used to mean wiped out. – Adam Jan 15 '15 at 17:19
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    Indeed, that's why I didn't mention it - the original (Roman/Latin) meaning was a literal 1/10th, but the way it's used now is much more generalised and no longer accurate enough to use without explaining that you are using it precisely: which pretty much negates any need to use it. – Jon Story Jan 15 '15 at 19:31
  • What an amazing, violent world ancient Rome must have been, where the fighting forces suffered losses of exactly 90% so often they had to make up a word for it. – Adam Jan 15 '15 at 19:40
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    haha, I believe it was actually the other way around and was used as an extreme punishment: if a large group of soldiers committed a serious crime (eg mutiny), rather than kill them all and lose a major part of your force, the unit would be "Decimated" - ie 1/10th of the force would be killed as a punishment and the rest spread between other units. The idea being that a 1/10th chance of dying would put the survivors off doing it again. – Jon Story Jan 15 '15 at 19:43
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    Remind me never to join your army.... – Jon Story Jan 21 '15 at 21:59

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