ENGLISCH/737: Questions to Mrs. Gobbledygook (115) 50% more (SB)


115. Alternative ways to say, "Half as much again"

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... I came across an article in an English newspaper which contained the following piece of information: A young man started a new job and was earning 20.000 pounds a year. By the end of the second year his salary had increased to 30.000. But the next sentence really confused me: "So, after two years he was earning half as much as when he started". I have read this sentence many times, but it doesn't make any sense to me. Could you give me some advice what might be meant by this misleading information?

Thank you in advance for your effort.

Kimberley Raas (Palmanyola, Spain/Isl. Baleares)


Dear Ms Raas Well, you are not surprisingly puzzled by the arithmetic of this sentence. How can 30 be half as much as 20? Well the answer is in one little word which was clearly missing from the text, and that word is the adverb "again". So then, the sentence reads:

"...after two years he was earning half as much a-g-a-i-n as when he started".

In other words,

"...after two years he was earning "one and a half times as much" as when he started."

So we know by now that there are two ways of expressing the same idea, "half as much again" and "one and a half times as much". And in fact the more idiomatic of those two expressions is the shorter one, "half as much again".

There is one more way of saying the same thing and this is a more scientific way of expressing it,

"...fifty percent more..."

So to summarize, if you want to be very idiomatic, say, "half as much again". If you are not too confident about that or you think that you may not be readily understood, say, "one and a half times as much". And if you want to sound business-like or if you're writing or speaking in a scientific context, say, "fifty percent more..."

And you have to pay attention to the words that follow, if any words follow. We say:

"half as much again a-s before..."

"one and a half times as much a-s before..."

"fifty percent more t-h-a-n before..."

Now, hoping that this gives you half as much again as you knew before...


Mrs Gobbledygook

18 May 2007