'Less' or 'Fewer'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 30 August 2022)

less vs fewer

The Difference between Less and Fewer

Less is correct before an uncountable noun (less information, less furniture, less water). 

Fewer is correct before a countable noun (fewer students, fewer items, fewer cases).

Typically, people misuse less in situations calling for fewer:

Less people are now eligible for social care support.
Fewer people are now eligible for social care support.

We need less motorways and more bicycle lanes.
We need fewer motorways and more bicycle lanes.

Examples from the Media

This government is amassing more and more data on all of us and we have less and less information on them. —The Guardian (2021)

It seems clear we have a lower ratio of capital to labour than the Americans—that is, our workers are given less equipment and other physical capital to work with, on average—which obviously limits our workers' productivity. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2007)

Fewer shoppers means fewer transactions which may not cover all the costs of running stores, especially when government support measures start to ebb away. —BBC (2020)

Researchers have discovered a possible link between the coronavirus pandemic and fewer instances of lightning reported during worldwide shutdowns in the spring of 2020. —CNN (2022)

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. It is common to simply state that you are going to practise the piano.
2. We use fewer with countable nouns and less with uncountable nouns. Sugary foods refer to specific types of food with high sugar content, such as cakes, biscuits, and sweets. If you say less sugary food, you are implying that you are going to reduce the sugar content across your diet generally—e.g. eating less jam on your toast.
3. A Scout is a member of the Scouts (an organisation).

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