the difference between fewer and less

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

Less and Fewer

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

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.

See also:

Are collective nouns singular or plural?
Singular or plural verbs after prepositional phrases (e.g. a box of tapes)

Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook Like Us on Facebook
Search Sign Up for Our Free Newsletter
by Craig Shrives Join Our Google+ Circle
Chat about grammar Ask a Grammar Question
Search Search This Site