Less vs. Lesser

You might think they are the same or used interchangeably, but you're mistaken. We will discuss it in this lesson.

"Less" vs. "Lesser" in the English grammar

What Are Their Main Differences?

'Less' shows reduction, while 'lesser' is just an adjective used before nouns to mean, something is not as great or important in size or importance as other things.


Grammatical Functions

  • 'Less':
  1. Determiner
  2. Pronoun
  3. Adverb
  4. Suffix in adjectives

As you know, determiners are used before nouns, using different kinds of nouns after determiners rely on the determiner. For example, 'less' is followed by singular uncountable nouns, However using a plural countable noun after it is considered common in daily English. Pronouns are used without any nouns immediately afterward. Adverbs are used to modify verbs adjectives or other adverbs, 'less' as an adverb is used after the verb and before adjectives and adverbs. Suffixes are added to the end of a term to give new meaning or related new meaning to it. 'Less' is added to adjectives to indicate the lack of a particular adjective.

Less of the cereal was left in the bowl. → pronoun

Using less sugar will help your health condition. → determiner

He turned out to be less slow after practicing that hard. → adverb

We saw a homeless man beside the street looking for food in the trash.

  • 'Lesser':
  1. Adjective

Lesser as an adjective is used only before nouns to tell they are at the lower degree or level. In other words, it is used to tell something or someone is not as important as the others.

They are lesser people who are not able to effort their life.

He belonged the lesser-known arts which became famous after his death. → compound adjective

What Less and Lesser Mean

As it was mentioned earlier, they differ in their meanings.

  • 'Less':

shows a reduction in the amount or number of something.

We have to get stressed less. → pronoun

They are giving less money. → determiner

  • 'Lesser':

means not as great or important as something else.

This is a lesser land which does not worth buying. → adjective

A lesser student would quit trying on this subject. → adjective

Singular or Plural Nouns?

  • 'Less':

is used before a singular uncountable noun as a determiner. However, as it was mentioned earlier it can be used before plural countable nouns, too. And it is common among native speakers.

Use less butter to melt the chocolate unless you ruin the taste.

Less meat is required these days, because people started to be vegetarian.

  • 'Lesser':

is used before any noun as an adjective whether the noun is countable, uncountable, singular, or plural.

He was a lesser teacher; I was confused after his teaching.

The Lesser of Two Evils or the Lesser Evil

If you are forced to choose between two bad choices and one of them is the worst while the other is a little bit better you use "the lesser of the two evils" or "the lesser evil". It means the one that has been chosen is a better option.

Spending the night on the island and not being killed by the sharks was the lesser evil.

She should marry an old man because it was the lesser of the two evils.


as Synonyms

It is said that sometimes people use 'lesser' as a double comparative in the same meaning as 'less', but keep in mind that it is technically incorrect and we use 'less' instead. Keep in mind that this use is too informal.

The car worth lesser than the house.

He has less unforeseen problems than I have.

Their Position in Interact with Nouns

'Lesser' as an adjective and 'less' as a determiner is used before nouns.

She is a student of lesser grades we do not know her.

Using less ice in the cocktail makes it taste bad.


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