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

Less vs. Fewer

Since they are similar in their meanings. They cause problems for beginners because it is difficult for new learners to choose when and where to use them.

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

What Are Their Differences?

'Less' refers to a reduction in the amount of something. While 'fewer' refers to a reduction in the number of something.


What They Refer to

  • 'Less':

refers to an 'amount', not a 'number' and as a result, it is followed by a singular uncountable noun.

People produce less garbage.

The lawyer found less information in the clients house.

  • 'Fewer':

refers to a number and as a result, it is used before plural countable nouns.

We received fewer calls today.

I use fewer tissues, because I want to help saving the nature.

Less and Few as Pronouns and Adverbs

  • 'Less':

can be used as a pronoun or even as an adverb, after a verb or before adjectives and other adverbs.

Less is used to grow red roses.

'Less' refers to a reduction in the 'amount' of 'water'.

They eat less after going on a diet. (Not " They eat fewer after going on a diet.")

  • 'Fewer':

cannot be used as a pronoun or adverb. It is an adjective and as a result, it can modify nouns, not adjectives. adverbs, or verbs.

Fewer people are worried about Corona virus these days. (Not "Fewer are worried about Corona virus these days.")

His mother is less strict than mine. (Not "His mother is fewer strict than mine.")

The Last Differences

  • 'Less':
  1. adverb
  2. determiner
  3. pronoun
  4. suffix

As an adverb, less is used before 'adjectives' or other 'adverbs' and after 'verbs'. As you know, determiners are used before 'nouns' and in this case, 'less' is mostly used before 'uncountable' nouns, but it can also be used before plural countable nouns, since it is common among native speakers. 'Less' as a pronoun is not immediately followed by a 'noun'. As a suffix, 'less' is added to some a'djectives' to show the lack of the particular adjective.

Pink is my less favorite color. → adverb

Have some! I used less lettuce this time. → determiner

We seem to spend less of our time together. → pronoun

He talked in the most meaningless way. → suffix

Less as a Preposition

'Less' as a preposition means to subtract or take away. For example:
What is 56 less 6? It equals 50.

  • 'Fewer':
  1. Comparative adjective:

'Fewer' comes before the noun to refer to a smaller number.

Fewer petrol barrels are transported this year.

She has read fewer books than I have.

Using 'of' after Less and Fewer

Since 'less' can be used as a pronoun, it can be followed by 'of' before noun phrases and pronouns, but 'fewer' cannot be used before 'of' as it is an adjective.

Actually, in compare with the last two years, more of the company's employees are promoted and less of them are still at the same position.

Less of their advices were useful for me. ( Not Fewer of their advices were useful for me.)


What They Mean

  • 'Less' and 'Fewer':

both indicate a reduction in degree, number, or amount. It means that they are getting little in their quantities.

Less people are studying math these days.

He has bought fewer cars than he bought last year.


  • 'Less' and 'Fewer':

are used to compare things and give information that one of them is smaller in size, number, amount, or in general smaller in quantity.

I like Alex more. He talks less than Harold.

Fewer animals are in danger nowadays because the government is too strict about the rules.

Talking about Distance and Money

'Less' is more likely to be used in indicating distances and amounts of money. Check out the examples.

This shirt is less than 29 dollars.

It is less than 120 miles from here to the local church.


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