'Less' and 'little' are truly close to each other. There is just a delicate difference between them.

"Little" vs. "Less" in the English Grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

As it was mentioned earlier 'less' and 'little' have different meanings. 'Less' refers to a reduction in something, while 'little' refers to a small amount of something.


  • 'Comparatives':

To know the differences between 'little' and 'less' first of all, you should know what 'comparatives' are. We use a comparative adjective to express how two people or things are different, or in other words, we use comparatives to compare things with each other. when you want to say that someone or something has inferior quality, size, or characteristic, you must use 'less'. But that is not all, as they can have different grammatical functions.

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Little':
  • 'Less':
  1. Determiner
  2. Pronoun
  3. Preposition
  4. Adverb
  5. Suffix (in adjectives)

'Little' and 'Less' as Determiners

  • 'Little' and 'less':

As determiners, they are used before nouns. The important difference between 'little' and 'less' in this use, is their meaning. Actually, 'little' refers to a small amount, while 'less' refers to a smaller amount.

He spilled little wine on the broiling salmons.

Tom had little money and even less luck.

'Little' and 'Less' as Pronouns

  • 'Little' and 'less':

as pronouns are not immediately followed by a noun. Most of the time they are used before verbs or at the end of a sentence. They differ in their meanings in an exact way as in determiners.

Less is left of ocean water.

Little was not burned in the fire ,all the other information was burned.

'Little' as an Adjective

  • 'Little':

as an adjective means small and it is used before every kind of noun, whether singular or plural, countable or uncountable.

The little boy was standing alone under the moonlight.

We watched the little horses jumping over the fence.

'Less' as a Preposition

  • 'Less':

is used as a preposition on formal occasions to mean exactly the same as minus. We can also define it as a part that is not included.

They paid the rent less 21 dollars.

What is 98 less 32?

'Less' as a Suffix (in Adjectives)

  • 'Less':

as a suffix, it is added to the adjectives to mean 'without'. Check out the examples below. These adjectives made of 'less' can be used on their own after some verbs or They can even be used before nouns.

Although the actor is growing up, he seems somehow ageless.

Do not try that restaurant. They serve tasteless foods.

Expressions and Phrases

There are many expressions and phrases in English made by the words 'little' and 'less'. Here are some:

  • less is more
  • no less than
  • little tin god


'Little' and 'Less' as Quantifiers

  • 'Little' and 'less':

are both quantifiers. Quantifiers are words that indicate a quantity. In other words, they refer to a number or an amount. On this subject, both 'less" and 'little' refer to a small amount.

Drop little oil in the pan. It will cause burn on the pizza.

The doctor suggested to have less butter.

'Little of' and 'Less of'

  • 'Little of' and 'less of':

are used when they are followed by pronouns or determiners + nouns

Little of his coffee was dropped on her shirt, but she was plenty angry.

Using less of this chocolate per day would increase your energy.

Singular or Plural Nouns?

  • 'Less' and 'little':

are both followed by a singular uncountable noun. As a result, they are followed by singular verbs. Keep in mind that 'less' can also be used with plural countable nouns, however, some teachers consider it wrong, it is still common and correct.

We are making less money during the pandemic.

I need little fresh air.

'Little' and 'Less' as Adverbs

  • 'Little' and 'less':

As adverbs, are used before adjectives or other adverbs. Keep in mind that they are used after the verb of the sentence. Remember, their meanings are still different.

I can’t eat all the pasta. I want less.

Men know little about women.

'Less and Less'

'Less and less' is an expression meaning to get or become smaller in size, number, degree, etc, over time.

The book is getting less and less interesting.

We should pay attention more about each other. We are spending less and less time with each other.


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