Fewer vs. Less
Comparing playlists, Vera had less songs than Jonathan.
I’m guessing that, to determine who had the longer playlist, someone counted the songs. When something can be counted, the comparison word is fewer.
There were considerably fewer people at the inauguration than originally claimed.
If something cannot be counted, use less.
Russell had less milk in his glass than Emily had in hers.
There is, however, an “exception” to the less/fewer rule. Sometimes we use numbers (countable) even though we’re talking about quantity (not countable). Examples:
- It’s impossible to support a family when you make less than $10 an hour. (The “$10” refers to a level of income, not individual bills.)
- We had less than three miles to go when we got a flat tire. (“Three miles” refers to a single span of distance, not individual miles.)
- Most of the furniture in the room was no less than 100 years old. (Again, the “hundred years” refers to a period of time, not individual years.)
Check out more writing tips below…
Search Tips by Topic
- Capitalization: Eponyms
- Comma – Restrictive/Nonrestrictive
- Compare to/with
- Could care less
- Daylight saving time
- Due to
- Every Day/Everyday
- Guess what/I wonder
- Hear hear
- Home/Hone in on
- I wonder/Guess what
Professional Style Monthly Subscription
Sign up to get Professional Style delivered straight to your inbox every month. It’s FREE, and you can’t beat FREE!