Difference Between ‘Fewer’ and ‘Less’
People often tend to get confused between ‘fewer’ and ‘less’. There are some fundamental differences between the two. ‘Fewer’ is used along with the nouns that can be counted. You can use it with animals, motors, shoes, pins etc. Here are some examples:
1. You have fewer shoes than I do.
2. There should be fewer clothes on the rack.
3. Danny has fewer notions than everyone else in the class.
4. Fewer of the alumni show each year in the school’s annual day.
5. There are fewer dance performances this year in the dance festival.
‘Less’ is used when the nouns are uncountable. It can be used with currency, pleasure, hail, optimism etc. Some examples include:
1. Hopefully there will be less hail this year.
2. We require less debt and more currency in the US market.
3. I am less techno savvy than Sid is.
4. Spend less time sitting idly.
5. There was less optimism in industry, last year, than this year.
‘Less’ can also be used with adjectives and adverbs. Some examples include:
1. I am less content in my old age.
2. He walks less fast than you.
People use ‘less’ more often than they use ‘fewer’. However, the difference is that ‘less’ should be used if you are talking about a noun that can be counted ‘“ three ships, four digs, etc, and ‘fewer’ should be used when you cannot count the noun, like happiness, optimism etc.
Basically, ‘fewer’ tells about the number, while ‘less’ stresses on quantity. ‘Fewer’ can be used for plural nouns and items that can be counted. If you say ‘few in number’, then it becomes redundant. If you want to say ‘in number’, then ‘few’ should be replaced with limited, rare, scant, or sparse.
In colloquial English, ‘less’ is acceptable, but slowly and surely it will replace ‘fewer’. People who say ‘less amateurs’, instead of ‘fewer amateurs’, are making a mistake. However, this is becoming acceptable nowadays.
Language specialists, on the other hand, adhere strict rule to the difference between less and fewer. For example, if someone talks about fewer apples, then it must be the result of counting those apples. However, if he is talking about less apples, then it will be viewed as a reference to their weight. Since ‘less’ can be used with adverbs, ‘less amateur’ will become ‘less amateurish’.
1. ‘Less’ should be used in relation to uncountable nouns, while ‘fewer’ should be used when the noun is countable.
2. ‘Less’ is becoming more acceptable in colloquial English, and will eventually replace ‘fewer’.
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