The term one third is unambiguously understood as $\frac 13$. Likewise, the term two fifths is unambiguously understood as $\frac 25$ and three sixths is understood as $\frac 36$.

But what exactly should be communicated to be understood as $\frac 52$?

It feels odd to pronounce it as five halves, although I'm not sure whether this is because it's wrong or because it's just rarely used. Is this the most accepted way to pronounce it, or is there another?


closed as off-topic by Andrés E. Caicedo, Cesareo, Eevee Trainer, Parcly Taxel, dantopa Mar 28 at 2:21

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is not about mathematics, within the scope defined in the help center." – Andrés E. Caicedo, Cesareo, dantopa
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "five over two"? $\endgroup$ – Lord Shark the Unknown Mar 27 at 6:56
  • $\begingroup$ @LordSharktheUnknown That's a workaround, but for the sake of consistency, and curiosity, I'm wondering if there's a natural language equivalent like there is with the other examples. $\endgroup$ – Hashim Mar 27 at 6:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The question is how do you pronounce 5/2, and the answer is that it is the way that you pronounce 5/2. However way it might be, it is the way that you pronounce it simply by the very subjective nature of the question. Unless it's a riddle in which case... $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 27 at 9:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is nothing at all wrong with "five halves". It is quite common. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Mar 27 at 21:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've edited the question to bring it on topic for math.SE, as it is a good question that has implications for effective communication. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Mar 28 at 6:48

I would say "five halves".

A few more characters.

  • $\begingroup$ In a general context it's very strange. I mean 5 halves of apples would be fine, but generally when not having something physically splittable does not make much sense. $\endgroup$ – Overmind Mar 27 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Overmind If you're in a context where the objects you're looking at aren't splittable, why would you be talking about $5\over 2$ of them? $\endgroup$ – Noah Schweber Mar 28 at 15:28

I think that "five halves" sounds odd because it is unlikely in a non-mathematical context. "I have two thirds of a cake" is plausible but I don't think that "I have five halves of a cake" is, "I have two and a half cakes" is much more plausible. Even if you had five half cakes (cut three into two and then eat one piece),"five half cakes" would be more likely.

In maths, or some other technical context, I would say "five over two".


In my opinion, the way you pronounce 2/5 will affect how you are understood, and is therefore context dependent.

If you say "two and a half" then it sounds like you have this: two and a half cookies

If you say "five halves" then it sounds like you have this: five half cookies

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your images have made me hungry! $\endgroup$ – John Omielan Mar 27 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ How will that work for something like ...skill / score points ? $\endgroup$ – Overmind Apr 8 at 8:28

In India it is pronounced as "five by two" or "five divided by two"

  • $\begingroup$ Fine in the UK as well in a technical context. However, probably not in natural, non-technical speech. $\endgroup$ – badjohn Mar 27 at 8:26
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Can't "five by two" be understood as 5*2 instead of 5/2? $\endgroup$ – Pere Mar 27 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ It's a danger. Spoken formulae can be ambiguous. The speaker's intonation may help otherwise you may have to guess or ask. "Five by two" is a common phrasing when discussing wood or image sizes. In both cases, $5 / 2$ and $ 5 \times 2$ would have a useful meaning. $\endgroup$ – badjohn Mar 27 at 8:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.