Thursday, September 16, 2010

Less vs. Fewer: Stand Up and Be Counted

Beth writes:
Hey Snarky,
I love your blog. I spotted this headline and thought it would make a good lesson on less vs. fewer.

Thanks, Beth! I love it when people send in grammar bloopers, so keep 'em coming. 

Where does go wrong? Its headline uses less instead of fewer to modify a countable noun.

Quick rule:
  • Use fewer for countable nouns. There are fewer opportunities for overtime, since bus drivers are making fewer stops on their routes. We can count opportunities and stops.
  • Use less for uncountable nouns. There is less stress for the teacher when her students eat less sugar. Stress and sugar can be measured, but not counted.

  • FAO, UN Agency Says Fewer People Are Hungry


  1. Boycott stores that have a "10 items or less" aisle!!!

  2. "10 items or less is perfectly good standard English". It never used to bother anyone until quite recently. There has never been a rule of English grammar saying you cannot use less for countable items. It all stems from a grammarian who commented that he thought "fewer" more elegant in places. That is just one person's opinion, not a rule of grammar. Let's boycott any store that uses the silly and pedantic "fewer" where "less" is better.

  3. There would favorably be more of the possible and evident piece guides for the students to follow around because in most of the cases these are said to be pretty important.