Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Fewer or less?

A frequently debated issue
Over the past few years numerous complaints about this issue have appeared in the press. Most often they relate to the '15 items or less' signs on supermarket tills.

So which is the correct word to use?

Fewer is an adjective and pronoun, meaning not as many.
E.g. There were fewer blue marbles than green marbles.

Less is also an adjective and pronoun, meaning not as much
E.g. The less time we spend doing homework the more time we can spend having fun.

As a general rule if what you are talking about is plural, or something that can be counted, then use fewer.

  • There were fewer gerbils than rabbits in the pet shop.
  • Fewer than four of the dishes on the menu were vegetarian.
  • There are noticeably fewer shoppers in the city centre today.
  • 15 items or fewer.
If what you are talking about is not plural, or can't be counted, use less.

  • It costs less money to buy second hand.
  • It takes less time to do your accounts on a computer.
  • You have less chance of winning the lottery than being struck by lightning.

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