Most of us do not understand where to use less and fewer. These are the two comparative adjectives, which are used in a sentence, where comparison of two entities is to be made. As both the two quantifiers mean a smaller amount of something, people get confused between the two easily. However, there is a difference between them, as in, you can use less when you are mentioning something which is uncountable or that does not have a plural.
Nevertheless, there are certain exceptions to the above rule which we are going to discuss in this article.
Now coming to fewer, it can be used at the places where we are talking about something which is countable or have a plural. In short, less will tell you ‘how much’ and fewer will tell you ‘how many’.
Content: Less Vs Fewer
|Basis for Comparison||Less||Fewer|
|Meaning||Not as much||Not as many|
|Used with||Uncountable nouns, collective nouns and bulk amounts.||Countable nouns and individual items.|
|Comparative form of||Little||Few|
|Example||I like drinking cold drink but only in less quantity.||I had fewer glasses of cold drink today.|
Definition of Less
The word ‘less’ is a quantifier, which is mainly used to compare two entities. As a determiner & pronoun, less implies ‘not as much’. If the word is used as a determiner & pronoun in a sentence, then it implies ‘not as much’, but when it is used as an adjective, it determines ‘something of lower importance’. Furthermore, less can also be used as an adverb, which indicates something of a smaller degree or extent.
So, here we can say that less is used when the things are measurable such as degree, value or quantity and also when nouns highlight an abstract whole as the exact number is not mentioned. Come let’s understand where can we use less in our sentences:
- To show a smaller amount of degree:
- We should speak less and listen more.
- As a preposition, it means minus:
- The bottle is priced at Rs. 800 less discount 10%.
- As an adjective, it reflects the degree of comparison:
- I have less money today than I had yesterday.
- Mayank is less talented than Tarun.
Definition of Fewer
As less, fewer is also a comparative adjective, which means ‘not as many. It can be used as a determiner, pronoun and adjective, to indicate a small number of something. Fewer emphasizes number, i.e. how many people or things are there. It focuses on discretely quantifiable nouns or to refers things in the plural. Come let’s understand how we can use it in our sentences:
- To represent a small in number:
- Due to heavy rains, fewer students came to college.
- Fewer trains are not on time, due to fog.
Key Differences Between Less and Fewer
The difference between less and fewer can be explained in the points given below:
- The term ‘less’ is a Germanic origin and it means ‘not as much’. Conversely, the term ‘fewer’ is also derived from German language and means ‘not as many’.
- We use less, as a comparative form of the word little, whereas fewer can be used as a comparative form of few.
- When it comes to usage, less is primarily used with uncountable nouns or the things which are measurable or that does not have a plural. As against, we use the word fewer with countable nouns or things that have a plural.
- Example: You should spend less time in operating mobile, or else it will cause eye problems.
There are fewer job opportunities for graduates in Tier III cities.
- There is less coffee in the mug.
- It rained heavily today, but that’s still less than it rained yesterday.
- Only a fewer people arrived to welcome the Television star.
- Due to heavy rains, fewer students came to the school.
It is a rule of thumb that less is used with nouns which are not countable. However, there is one exception to this rule, i.e. when we talk about time, money, weight and distance, we use less rather than fewer.
- Ronit spends less time at home and more in the office.
- Steve has less money in his pocket.
- Arun’s weight is less than his younger brother’s weight.
- Delhi is less than 50 kilometres away from Noida.
How to remember the difference
The best tip to remember the difference between less and fewer is that you can use less, where you can measure the things, but cannot count them and use fewer at the places where you can actually count the objects.
Jeff T. says
My wife and I spent an hour, easily, discussing the subject and referencing your article.