Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

the difference between fewer and less

The Quick Answer
Use less when referring to a single item.
Use fewer when referring to more than one item.

Using Fewer and Less

Writers often misuse the words less and fewer. The word less should be used for a single item (e.g., less time). Fewer should be used when there is more than one item (e.g., fewer mice).

  • There is less cheese on this plate.
  • cheese – singular)
  • There are fewer pieces of cheese on this plate.
  • (pieces – plural)
  • There are less pigeons in Trafalgar Square than there used to be.
  • In the future, there will be less coins in circulation.
  • Fewer people will vote in the forthcoming elections.  

Together we're using less bags
(should be fewer bags)

Less napkins. More plants.
(should be fewer napkins)

...fewer carrier bags

A Similar Topic: Amount and Number

Like less, the word amount should be used with a single item. The word number should be used when there is more than one.
  • A large amount of people.
  • (people – more than one person)
  • A large number of people.
  • At that stage, a huge amount of sugar and a vast number of chocolate buttons are poured in and stirred. There is a short wait and then a seemingly infinite number of chocolates whiz along the conveyer belt.

See the lesson Amount, quantity and number.