Fewer or Less? (The Difference)
Fewer or Less?When should I use "fewer" and "less"?
- Use "less" when referring to a single item. For example:
- less money
- less cheese
- less haste
- Use "fewer" when referring to more than one item. For example:
- fewer coins
- fewer pieces of cheese
- fewer rats
A Video SummaryHere is a 1-minute video summarizing this lesson on "fewer" and "less":
Click on the Two Correct Sentences
More about "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, less space). The word "fewer" should be used when there is more than one item (e.g., fewer mice, fewer omissions).
These rules mean that "less" is always used with non-countable nouns (as they can't be pluralized), and "fewer" is always used with countable nouns.
There is a quirk, however. The term "less than" is used with numbers before times and measurements, e.g., less than four miles. There's more on this below.
Example Sentences with "Fewer" and "Less"
- There is less cheese on this plate. (The word "cheese" is singular.)
- There are fewer pieces of cheese on this plate. (The word "pieces" is plural.)
- There are less pigeons in Trafalgar Square than there used to be. (should be "fewer pigeons")
- In the future, there will be less coins in circulation. (should be "fewer coins")
- Fewer people will vote in the forthcoming elections.
"Less Than" with Times and MeasurementsUse "less than" (as opposed to "fewer than") with numbers used with times and measurements. For example:
- Unemployed? You can get a great job in less than three months. How? Learn to program. (Author Tucker Max)
- Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees.
Common Terms with "Fewer" and "Less"Here are some common terms with "fewer" and "less":
- fewer people
- fewer miles
- fewer hours
- fewer calories
- less staff
- less time
- less haste
Adopt the Fewer/Less RulingMany people consider the fewer/less ruling outdated. It is certainly not well observed by some large reputable companies. For example:
less bags (fewer bags )
less napkins (fewer napkins )
less emissions (fewer emissions )
Grammar Monster advises that you play it safe and adopt the ruling. Using "less" incorrectly may irk your readers. Using "fewer" correctly will showcase your grammar skills.