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Fewer or less

Fewer or less, differences, examples

By Zak Hall - English Grammar

“I eat fewer chocolate bars than you and you have less energy than me.”

In this article we will examine “fewer” and “less” and the nuances that set these words apart.

There is one very key difference between the usage of these words.

Although these words are both used to describe a lower amount of something, the use of each one depends on the type of noun you are describing. Because of the subtle difference, the words are very often misspoken by native speakers.

Now before we begin, you must know the difference between countable and uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns are nouns to which you can put a number. You can count these nouns as separate objects.

 

Here are a few examples of countable nouns:

There are six cows over there.

I only have three pounds left.

He was at the party for five hours.

 

Uncountable nouns are nouns to which that you cannot put a number. You can’t count these nouns as separate objects.

 

Here are a few examples of uncountable nouns:

I’m making some food.

She hasn’t shown much promise.

That is some very wise advice.

 

Remember to bear in mind that in your native language, a noun may be countable whilst in English it is not countable. The rule doesn’t necessarily carry over.

Now, let’s get onto the matter at hand. The differences between “fewer” and “less”.

 

 

fewer or less

 

Fewer

We use “fewer” with countable nouns. If we have a lower quantity of a countable noun then it is imperative to use “fewer”.

 

Here are some examples:

You have fewer friends than I do.

There are fewer people here than earlier.

It would have been better if you had used fewer tomatoes.

 

Less

We use “less” with uncountable nouns. When there is a lower quantity of an uncountable noun then you must use “less”.

 

Here are some examples:

I have less time than I thought.

The truth is becoming less and less important.

You’re making less noise than before.

 

Take it from me, you will hear native speakers mixing these up all the time.

It is hard to think on the spot about whether the noun is a countable or an uncountable noun and once you build up bad habits, standards can slip forever.

In terms of severity, this mistake is not the worst and will usually not be noticed, but it is always good to know the rule.

Try your best to speak correctly, but at the same time, don’t get disheartened if you make a mistake now and again. Nobody is perfect and as long as you are practicing this regularly, you will easily get the hang of it.

Correcting the mistakes that you make is a great way to improve your language.

A great way to practice is by simply writing a list of nouns and trying to put them into sentences using “less” and “fewer”.

Every noun is countable or uncountable, there is no other form. Write down whatever nouns you want and start practicing now.