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Less versus fewer

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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