May 21, 2023, Comment off

When to Use “Less” and “Fewer”

Understanding the difference between “less” and “fewer”

Confused about when to use “less” or “fewer”? Let’s explore the correct usage of these terms when it comes to quantity.

Use Fewer for:

  • Describing a countable quantity
  • Eg. Keep fewer books on the table
  • Countable items

Use Less for:

  • Describing a non-countable quantity
  • Eg. Add less salt
  • Non-countable items

Remember, fewer is for countable items, while less is for non-countable items. To make sure you get the grammar right, check to see if you’re dealing with a count noun (fewer) or a mass noun (less).

When to use “less”

Using “Less” Appropriately: A Professional Guide

Correct usage of “less” can enhance writing skills. “Less” is for uncountable items. “Use less sugar in your coffee.” It does not apply to the plural. For example, use “fewer” in “I have fewer pencils than you.”

To avoid grammar mistakes, it is crucial to recognize when the noun is countable or uncountable. While writing, it is important to emphasize this distinction to avoid confusion. For countable items, use “less” in the negative sense.

When referring to uncountable nouns

When discussing immeasurable items, the term “less” is used instead of “fewer“. This applies to singular or immeasurable things. For example, you’d say “less water,” but not “less glass” or “fewer tea“.

For mass nouns like “money,” use “less” for value. However, solid goods with weights or amounts refer to individual units, so you’d use “fewer“.

When referring to singular countable nouns

When talking about a single, countable entity, ‘less‘ is the right term to use. For instance, “I want less cake” is suitable since cake is a single, countable noun. ‘Fewer‘ is used for plural countable nouns. Wrong usage of the terms can cause misunderstanding or incorrect grammar.

In informal settings, ‘less‘ for plural entities is heard often. But, it’s not recommended when using formal speaking or writing. This makes sure communication is clear and grammar is accurate.

When referring to groups or collective nouns

Confused about when to use “less” or “fewer” when talking about a collective group? When looking at one entity, like a team or company, use less. If looking at separate individuals, like a crowd or queue, use fewer.

It’s important to know the context. In advertising, incorrect grammar may be more effective, like supermarkets saying “10 items or less.” However, if accuracy is important, you’ll need to know when to use each word.

When to use “fewer”

When to employ “fewer”

When selecting between “fewer” and “less,” it is important to know the difference. “Fewer” should be used when referring to items that can be enumerated or counted specifically. On the other hand, “less” is used with unpunctual, uncountable, and abstract nouns like time, money, and love.

To make it clear, “fewer” is appropriate in contexts such as “I have fewer pencils than my friend” rather than “I have less pencils than my friend.” The incorrect usage occurs due to the fact that pencils can be counted.

It’s worth noting that “fewer” should be used with plurals of count nouns, while “less” refers to singular nouns. So, instead of saying “I have fewer money,” which is incorrect, you should say “I have less money.”

In order to improve one’s writing and adhere to grammar rules, it is critical to understand the distinction between “fewer” and “less.” This is particularly true in formal or professional writing.

Pay close attention to the vocabulary you employ while writing since utilizing the appropriate term will result in improved clarity and communication. Using “fewer” in the correct context will convey a sense of accuracy and precision, but misusing it may result in misinterpretation and confusion.

When referring to plural countable nouns

When discussing multiple countable objects, use “fewer” instead of “less”. Here’s an example: grocery shopping requires “10 items or fewer“. Or, if talking about car accidents, say “fewer cars involved than expected“. As for job postings, “fewer positions are available this year“.

Remember that use “less” for uncountable nouns. For example, say “less water” not “fewer water”.

Using the correct term can help improve understanding and prevent confusion in writing. Utilizing “fewer” properly helps with professional communication and makes it easier to share thoughts.

When referring to individual items or things

It’s important to use “fewer” when discussing singular objects. This applies to countable nouns like apples, shoes, and pencils. For example, “There are fewer people in this room than yesterday.” Nevertheless, “less” should still be used for non-countable nouns such as water and air.

When writing formally, using “fewer” instead of “less” is key. In the grocery store you’d say “I need fewer apples today” not “I need less apples.” The same applies to determiners like “number,” “amount,” and “quantity.” Instead of “He has less books on his shelf,” use “He has fewer books on his shelf.”

When referring to time or distances

When talking about amounts of time or space, use the right word between “fewer” and “less”.

“Fewer” is for items we can count, like minutes or miles. And “less” is for stuff that can’t be easily measured, like time.

So don’t say “I have less minutes ’til my appointment,” say “I have fewer than ten minutes ’til my appointment.” This helps us talk and write clearly.

Using the right term can show you pay attention to detail and communicate effectively. Don’t worry if it sounds too fancy.

Tip: If you’re unsure which word to use, try rephrasing the sentence using the plural form of the noun. If you could count it if there was more than one, use “fewer.”

Common Mistakes to avoid when using “less” and “fewer”

“Less” and “fewer” are often confused. Here are six common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Use “fewer” with countable nouns.
  2. Know which article to use.
  3. Don’t count what can’t be counted.
  4. Don’t make errors with percentages.
  5. Look for context distinctions.
  6. Don’t use informal language adjustments.

Remember, if it can be counted, use “fewer.”

Want to learn more about English Grammar? Check our Quick Start Grammar Guide for everything you need to know.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When should I use “fewer” instead of “less”?

Use “fewer” when referring to something that can be counted, such as people, days, or books. For example, “I have fewer books than you do.”

2. When should I use “less” instead of “fewer”?

Use “less” when referring to something that cannot be counted, such as time, money, or sand. For example, “I have less sand in my shoes than you do.”

3. Can “less” be used for countable nouns?

While “less” is often used in place of “fewer” in casual speech, it is not strictly correct to use “less” with countable nouns. To avoid confusion or ambiguity, it is best to use “fewer” with countable nouns.

4. What is the difference between “less than” and “fewer than”?

“Less than” is used to describe non-countable quantities, while “fewer than” is used to describe countable quantities. For example, “I have less than ten dollars in my wallet” versus “I have fewer than ten books on my shelf.”

5. Can “less” and “fewer” be used interchangeably?

No, “less” and “fewer” cannot be used interchangeably as they have different meanings and usages. While “less” refers to an amount or quantity, “fewer” refers to a number of individual items.

6. Is it incorrect to use “less” when referring to money?

Although “less” is often used when referring to money in casual speech, it is technically incorrect to do so as money is a countable noun. Therefore, “fewer” should be used instead. However, in certain contexts, such as advertising, the use of “less” with money may be deemed acceptable.