Less vs fewer
Less and fewer are comparative adjectives that describe that something is decreasing. Depending on the subject of a sentence, only one of them is correct. Use fewer with things you can count and less with things you cannot count.
Let’s say you want to go on a diet. To do so, you could dial back on your consumption of candy bars. Because you could specify how many candy bars you mean, you want to eat fewer candy bars. You could also be more generic and say you do not want to eat as much sugar. Because sugar is uncountable unless we talk about individual grains, you want to eat less sugar.
- You can watch fewer shows and less television.
- You can drink fewer cups of coffee or less coffee.
- You can eat fewer steaks and less meat.
Fewer answers the question of “exactly how many”. Use it when the noun can be paired with a number, such as “five shows”. You wouldn’t watch “three television”, making less the correct choice in that case.
Unfortunately, this rule does not apply when talking about time, money, distance, or weight. These examples do not match the countable-uncountable-rule, but are still correct:
- My commute takes less than 30 minutes.
- This meal costs less than 15 dollars.
- They live less than 500 meters from the office.
- My dog weighs less than 10 kilograms.
If the exact value we refer to with these sentences could be a fraction (such as 25.5 minutes or 8.9 kilograms), we use less.
Some nouns, such as water or homework, are uncountable. With them, you will always use less. If something is countable in integers only, use fewer. For example, this lesson will help you make fewer mistakes.
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Less vs fewer
Is it “less mistakes” or “fewer mistakes”? They both seem to say that something is not as much as it was before, but only one is grammatically correct.Read full lesson