What is the difference between “Fewer” and “Less” in English?
English can be difficult to learn because of the many exceptions and rules. One such case is the use of the words “fewer” and “less”. These words are often used in different contexts, and understanding their correct usage can be important to achieving a high level of English proficiency. “Fewer” is used when discussing items that are to be counted or quantified. Mainly used when talking about items that can be counted or measured in whole numbers. On the other hand, “less” is used with uncountable nouns. These are elements that cannot be easily quantified as separate units. In this article, we will analyze the differences between “fewer” and “less” and find out the correct way to use them.
Use of “Fewer” in English
“Fewer” is the comparative form of the word “few” and is used in English to show a decrease in quantity when something can be counted.
Usage: “Fewer” is used with countable nouns or terms that describe the amount of something that can be measured. In other words, it should be used when you are counting or measuring individual objects.
- “There are fewer people at the park today than there were yesterday.”
- “I bought fewer books this year than last year.”
- “Fewer car accidents occur when the weather is nice.”
Place in a sentence: “Fewer” usually comes before a noun or phrase that describes something that can be counted. Example:
“Fewer than 20% of students passed the test.”
Usage mistakes: “Fewer” is sometimes confused with “less”, but they are used in different contexts. “Less” is used with uncountable nouns. For example, it would be wrong to say “I have less coins than you.” Instead, “I have fewer coins than you.” would be correct.
Use of “Less” in English
“Less” is the comparative form of “little” and is used in English to denote a small amount or degree of something.
Usage: “Less” is used with uncountable nouns, ie things that cannot be counted. Often these are abstract ideas, materials, or things that are difficult to measure precisely.
- “She has less money than her brother.”
- “We have less time to complete the project.”
- “There should be less emphasis on testing in schools.”
Place in a sentence: “Less” usually comes before a noun or phrase that describes something that cannot be counted. Example:
“I felt less of a connection to the second book in the series.”
Usage mistakes: Often “less” is incorrectly used instead of “fewer”. Note: To stop confusion between “less” and “fewer”, remember that “less” is only used with uncountable nouns, ie things that cannot be measured or counted. When talking about a specific amount, it is better to use “fewer”. For example, it is not correct to say “I have less books than you.” Instead, you should say “I have fewer books than you.”
Difference between “Fewer” and “Less”
“Fewer” and “Less” are two words used to express a decrease in quantity or amount, but they differ in their usage in the English language.
“Fewer“: Used with countable nouns, which are items that can be counted individually. Indicates a reduction in the number of specific, individual units. Example:
- “There are fewer apples on the tree.”
“Less“: Used with uncountable nouns, which are things that cannot be counted individually. Signifies a reduction in volume, amount, or degree of something that isn’t precisely countable. Example:
- “There is less water in the glass.”
So, the main difference between “fewer” and “less” is that “fewer” is used with countable nouns for specific units, while “less” is used with uncountable nouns for the impossibility of counting individual units. This is important to understand because incorrect usage can lead to misunderstandings in expressing thoughts or ideas in English.
Using “fewer” for countable nouns and “less” for uncountable nouns ensures clear and precise communication. Practicing their use in everyday conversation and writing will reinforce this grammatical distinction, enabling more accurate and clear use of the English language.