Do you know when to use ‘fewer’ and when to use ‘less’?
The standard rule is to use ‘fewer’ for things you can count: people, animals, trees, items of clothing …
- Fewer people take sugar nowadays.
- Fewer animals are kept in zoos.
- Due to deforestation, there are fewer trees in some parts of the world.
… and when the noun is uncountable, ‘less’ is used.
- We had less rainfall this summer.
- I would like to spend less time working.
However, there are exceptions to this simple rule. Here is a better rule: apply ‘less’ for singular nouns and ‘fewer’ for plural nouns.
- The pennies are precious. We have fewer pennies.
- Money is short. We have less money.
Notice that ‘less’ is also used with adjectives and adverbs.
- I’m less broke than I was a year ago.
- I’m less likely to fail this exam if I revise enough.
‘Less’ is also usually used with units:
- It costs less than five pounds.
- We go on holiday in less than a fortnight.
- He can run a mile in less than four minutes.
- Fewer mistakes
- Less editing