Half Empty? No Such Thing!

Is the glass half empty, or half full?

I have heard that question posed many times, and never been happy with the standard answer. I’ve always believed there is no such thing as half empty.  A 10 ounce glass with 5 oz in it is half full. (Half of zero is still zero — assuming your calculation does not consider it an error).

You can say, correctly I might add, that with 5 oz in it, when it formerly had 10 oz, it has been half-emptied.

But this is essentially a grammar, not philosophical problem.

The answer depends upon whether you are asking for the current volume, or the recent trend.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. frenchman commented on May 22

    well(,) half full… but half emptying

  2. ottnott commented on May 22

    Half-empty is how you should describe your glass when you want it topped up.

    If you were to say that it was half emptied, your host would assume that your goal was to empty the glass, and so would not offer more beverage.

  3. Wayne commented on May 22

    My favorite reply to the question is “neither – the glass is twice as big as it need be”

  4. scorpio commented on May 22

    the kind of people who always ask whether you see the world as “half-full or half-empty” are themselves entirely full of it

  5. JJL commented on May 22

    I came up with this response myself, but I have no idea if it has been said somewhere else before, redundant invention if so.

    Q: Is the glass half empty, or half full?

    A: The volume of the glass is one half actualized.

  6. mhm commented on May 22

    Nope. This new ‘trend’ variable is bollocks, like a Moody’s computing model.

    If the bottle is at 90% capacity you say it is almost full.

    If it is at 10% capacity you say it is almost empty.

    If it is at 50% you can say either half empty or half full.

  7. Winston Munn commented on May 22

    You are considering the wrong problem. It is not the amount of water once there, or the amount of water now there that is of concern – the problem is the glass cannot change its shape to fit the everchanging amounts of water.

    Therefore, the correct answer is D: change glasses.

  8. Joe commented on May 22

    (Half of zero is still zero — assuming your calculation does not consider it an error).

    But the question is not if the glass is “Half of Empty” (Half * Empty) but if the glass is Half Empty”.

    Man, I should totally be working right now, but this was too important to pass up.

  9. American Entrepreneur Seminar commented on May 22

    Would you like to build your own wealth in the current real estate market? Attend the American Entrepreneur Seminar in one of our convenient Washington, DC metro area locations, and be trained by Armando Montelongo, star of A&E’s hottest show “Flip this House.” You will be taught several strategies, including: 1) How to create your own high-profit flipping machine in today’s market. 2) Discover how to become rich from the 2008 foreclosure opportunity. 3) Learn strategies that generate 16-34% return approved by the government. 4) How to buy and profit from bank-owned properties with little or no money out-of-pocket. 5) How to put an extra $7,000 to $12,000 in your pocket in just 30-90 days. 6) How to profit in and identify real estate markets hitting rock bottom Seminars in the Washington, DC area May 28-31. Visit http://buildingwealthforme.com/ for more information.

  10. Isaac commented on May 22

    The glass is half-full of liquid and half-full of air.

  11. Markus commented on May 22

    I have to disagree with the equivalence of empty and zero and half of that to be zero.

    A better analogy would be between empty and amount of remaining capacity.

    A 1 liter volume half filled has 500 ml of fluid in it and 500 ml of additional space to add more fluid. In that case, it’s remaining capacity to hold more liquid is one half of its capacity to hold liquid when there is no liquid present in the container.

  12. Goodliffe commented on May 22

    The optimist says the glass is half full. The pessimist says the glass is half empty. I usually say, “Hey, if you’re not gonna drink that, pass it over here.”

  13. larster commented on May 22

    Agree with Scorpio. People that pose this question do not normally know any facts and simply try to insinuate that you are a pessimist, i.e. ignorant.

  14. dis commented on May 22

    half empty = half of the total volume of the glass is empty = half of the total volume of the glass is full = half full

  15. JJL commented on May 22

    “Do not try and see the glass as half empty or half full, instead try only to see the truth.

    And what’s that?

    There is no glass.”

    Loose “The Matrix” analogy!

  16. Pool Shark commented on May 22

    “The kind of people who always ask whether you see the world as “half-full or half-empty” are themselves entirely full of it.”

    There are two kinds of people in this world: those that divide people into two groups, and those that don’t…

  17. tim commented on May 22

    The correct answer to that question is simply “who forgot to fill the damn glass?”

  18. Tom S J commented on May 22

    You are all loony from spending too much time reading the econ blogs (Big Picture being one of my favorite).

    Drink the remaining water in the glass or breath the air of it. However much you see of what you desire as remaining in the glass, the glass will then be fully empty of it. After a time, when you are again thirsty or breathless, only then will you be able to judge the former contents of the glass.

    I suspect you will then find it was half empty.

  19. rickrude commented on May 22

    1/2 full when invested in oil stocks

    1/2 empty when not invested and paying $4/gal at the gas station

    empty when winter comes and in order to stay warm, you spend whatever is left after food, on your heating bills.

  20. Sherman McCoy commented on May 22

    I ponder this with a good ole’ screwdriver… One-quarter of the glass filled with vodka… One quarter with o.j… hmmm… tastes… GOOD! More vodka… More o.j… mmmm… More vodka! More o.j.! think… ponder… more vodka! not so much o.j. this time… huh? what was the question?! 42! more vodka! MORE VODKA! MORE VODKA! Noozie! I have been drinking so much VODKA that I am Russian now! Am I still writing.. neh… commenting?! Gawd I hope I am doing this on my porn blog so I don’t look like an idiot… MORE VODKA! MORE MORE MORE VODKA! Oh how I love Russian girls… 42! When November comes I will go vote drunk like this… vote for PUTIN! MORE VODKA! Where’s the porn on this site? Finance books wtf? George CLason the richest man in babylon he should have gotten laid more then he would have been RICH AND HAPPY. MORE VODKA! oh dear i feel like a piss-drunk garden gnome… there was a question here… MORE VODKA! what was it? oh yea… the glass… half-o.j. OR IS IT half-vodka… well says Lev Davidovich Landau long dead (he should have drunken more VODKA he would still be alive) it is BOTH at the same time until it is observed but you can only OBSERVE that truth about superposition when you are really really drunk… MORE VODKA!

  21. John F. commented on May 22

    Take half an aspirin and try to get more sleep.

  22. Nihilism commented on May 22

    Always 1/2 Full if you are a Equity long-only manager

    1/2 Empty If you are a Bond long-only fund manager

    Doesn’t matter, weather it is empty or full or overflowing or partially filled/empty, if you are a commodity investor?!

    If it is empty means — fed will cut and it is good for them; if it is fuller means peak oil and the fundamental macro picture will further support case of dwindling supplies and growing demand!

  23. la grande poussée commented on May 22

    Half empty or half full is not in my inventory of phrases Often is and Off-Ten isn’t
    My mother told me that off-ten is poor english and she was a task master – I believed my mother! The Dictionary says that both are OK
    Who Says?

  24. chas commented on May 23

    I recall Michael Moore, host of the public radio program “What Do You Know?” saying

    “Whether the glass is half full or half empty, it’s still just half a glass.”

  25. Notsofastfriend commented on May 23

    1/2 empty, 1/2 full… Is called equilibrium. Deviation from either is optimism or pessimism. From where we came or to where we are going either road has it’s crossroad. Hence the glass is half full/empty.

  26. Egg commented on May 23

    To elaborate on some suggestions above, the “glass” part of the metaphor usually doesn’t correspond to anything real. When it comes to the budget deficit, or the price of oil, or capital gains, how big is the “glass”? As someone already said, there is no glass.

    Or, to put it another way, often it is a good idea to choose the size of the glass ahead of time and afterwards see how full/empty it is–then you can decide whether your glass size was realistic. There’s not much point in choosing the glass size afterwards though, since then you can make it look as full or empty as you please–and presumably we do this based on how optimistic or pessimistic we are.

    To return to the question then, it isn’t whether the glass looks half-full or half-empty to you, but rather how you distort the glass in order to make it look more full or more empty.

  27. Mark Hessel commented on May 23

    I agree. Half of nothing is still nothing.
    I’m not even sure half-emptied is correct.
    How can you half empty a glass of water?

    It’s more like I want to empty this glass
    till it’s half full.

    Who knew being a realist was the definition
    of optimism?

  28. ECONOMISTA NON GRATA commented on May 23

    Being the optimist that I am, I refer to the glass as being 1/13th full rather than 12/13ths empty.

    Let’s have a PEP Rally….!

    Go team…. Rah! Rah! Rah!


  29. chas commented on May 23

    Correction: “Whad’Ya Know?”/Michael Feldman for the just half a glass remark.

Read this next.

Posted Under