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Fewer vs. Less


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"Fewer" and "less" are two words that are sometimes confused.  While they both refer to a smaller amount or quantity of something, they are used in different circumstances.

"Fewer" refers to amounts that you can count individually.  Let's use "books" as an example.  You can count the number of books you have.  So you would say "I have fewer books than I used to."

"Less" refers to amounts that you can't count individually.  Let's use "space" as an example.  Space is a quantity but you can't count it individually,  So you would say, "I have less space in this apartment than I did in my previous apartment."

If you put the two concepts together, you would say, "I have fewer books than I used to because I moved into an apartment with less space than my previous apartment." 

Here's another example. 

"This store has less coffee for sale than the other store." 

But you would say, "This store has fewer brands of coffee than the other store."

Coffee is a mass quantity that you can't count.  But you can count the number of brands of coffee that you see on a store shelf. 

Can you think of some examples to help us illustrate the difference?

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Guest chives152

I don't think that my English math books know when to use these two terms. It is kind of scary relizing how much I don't know about my native language. I found a few examples.

People these days are buying fewer newspapers.

Fewer students are opting to study science-related subjects.

Fewer than thirty children each year develop the disease.

It’s a better job but they pay you less money.

People want to spend less time in traffic jams.

Ironically, when I’m on tour, I listen to less music.

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Fewer and less are comparatives of the words few and little. Wherever you use few, you would use fewer and where you use little, you would use less, I think.

So you can say: "I have a few books," therefore: "I have fewer books."

But this is obviously wrong: "I have little books," people would think you mean the size. "I have less books," is wrong because you can not use little in this sentence.

On the other hand, you can say: "I have little time today," so it's also right to say: "I have less time." And of course, it would not make sense to say: "I have few time," as you cannot just count 'time', and so it's also wrong to say: "I have fewer time."

You can count minutes of course, so instead of saying you have little time, you can say you have a few minutes, but as time goes on, you'll have fewer and fewer minutes left and less time to discuss things.

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