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

Less vs. Least

'Less' and 'least' are used a lot in English so it is important to know their differences.

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

What Are Their Main Differences?

'Less' refers to a small amount, while 'least' refers to the smallest amount or number.


Singular or plural Nouns?

  • 'Less':

is followed by a singular uncountable noun. However, native speakers and even English learners use 'less' before countable nouns. Some people consider it wrong ,but it is actually correct.

They waste less money than they did before.

The cat drinks less milk, because of the sickness.

  • 'Least':

is followed by singular uncountable and plural countable nouns. Remember, you cannot use singular countable nouns after 'least'.

One of the least points was mine.

He has the least information of anybody else in this room.

What They Refer to

  • 'Less':

refers to a smaller amount or degree. We mean in a sentence when we use 'less' it implies that something is used or done at a smaller amount or degree. besides nouns. 'less' can be used before some adjectives to make them comparative adjectives.

Using this new shampoo made me lose less hair.

Now his emotion seems less important to me.

  • 'Least':

refers to the smallest amount or degree. It means when 'less' is used in a sentence it implies that something is used or done at the smallest amount or degree. besides nouns. 'least' can be used before some adjectives to make them superlative adjectives.

My least favorite fruit in the world is strawberry.

I want to give away some of my least used stuffs.

Grammatical Functions

  • 'Less':
  1. Preposition
  2. Suffix

Less as a preposition means taking away or refers to an amount or number that is not included. As a suffix, it is added to some adjectives to imply that something is defined as without the particular adjective.

My friend paid back his debt less 20 $.

We wished them an endless love.

  • 'Least':

has three word classes since they are mutual with the word classes of the term 'less' we will discuss them in the similarities part.


Grammatical Functions

  • 'Less' and 'least':
  1. Determiners
  2. Pronouns
  3. Adverbs

As determiners, they are used before nouns. 'least' and 'less' as pronouns can be used without a noun or they are not immediately followed by a noun. As adverbs, they are used before adjectives or adverbs or even after verbs to define them. 'Less' makes comparative adjectives and 'least' makes superlative adjectives. Remember, least is considered a superlative adjective and as a result, when you are comparing, it is between a set of more than two. And 'less' is used to form comparative adjectives, so the comparison is between a set of two.

I drink less juice than I did before. →determiner

Here, in this example 'less' is used as a 'determiner' since there is a noun after it.

Less is used to produce paper money. →pronoun

The least functions of new mobile phones are to zoom in digitally 10 times more and to capture more lights. →determiner

I have done nearly everything; the least is left undone. →pronoun

He consented to buy the least expensive car. → adverb

I can't care less over their critics. → adverb

Less and Least as Quantifiers

Both 'less' and 'least' can be used as quantifiers before different classes of words. As you know, quantifiers are words that are used to refer to numbers, amounts, degrees, etc.

Please control yourself and be less worried; he will be back soon.

Here in this example 'less' is a quantifier that is followed by an adjective (worried).

My uncle is the least interesting person ever.


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