He has been working on it for the better half of the decade.

What does this sentence suggest?

  • 2
    I've edited in "the" before "better", because I'm sure that wasn't what you were asking about (if you were, I'd say it suggests the original writer wasn't a native speaker! :). Jun 17, 2013 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


In this context, the better half is a somewhat non-standard variant of...

best part of something - nearly all of something, the majority, most

...so really all it means here is for more than five years. Or feasibly, for more than 15 months if we assume by the decade he means the period of ten years starting from 2012 (which I seriously doubt! :).

Usually, the (or my) better half is a slang/ironic term for one's wife (sometimes husband).

  • Just FYI, I don't consider my better half to be predominantly British at all; I've heard it quite often all my life and it sounds perfectly American to me as well. Perhaps it's a region thing here, but I hear it in songs and movies all the time as well, so it seems at least acceptably common. Anyway, great answer. +1!
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 18, 2013 at 0:53
  • @WendiKidd: I did a bit of checking just now, and I see you're quite right - it's equally common everywhere. Actually, I'd originally intended to write (mainly BrE I think), but I dithered because I intended to check it then. But I got distracted, obviously. I'll edit out the tattered remnants of a discredited guess, ty! But you being American, your better half (assumiong you've got one! :) probably wouldn't be British anyway. We tend to marry within our own tribes! Jun 18, 2013 at 1:49
  • Strange - by my reckoning, I've picked up a downvote since removing that erroneous better half is BrE aside. I find it hard to believe someone thinks better half of the decade isn't a "somewhat non-standard variant". That link is to 6 instances in print, compared to over 5000 for best part of the decade (in almost all cases they both just mean most of). Jun 18, 2013 at 17:35
  • now I am sure the author meant five years
    – Birju Shah
    Jun 19, 2013 at 5:30
  • @Birju Shah: You mean more than five years (usually, nearer ten than five). Jun 19, 2013 at 12:18

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