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Friday, 12 August 2011

Stuart's Daily Word Spot: Less or fewer?

Less or fewer?
The misuse of these two words is far more common than it need be, even at the hands of so-called professional journalists. The distinction is relatively straightforward and the mix-up probably results from the fact that we tend to use ‘less’ for more or less all situations.

‘Less’ should be used for quantities that cannot be counted. So, for example, concepts and qualities generally can’t be counted and you would say (or write) ‘less freedom’, ‘less love’, ‘less crime’ (when referring to the general activity rather than to the individual criminal acts).

‘Fewer’ is used for all situations where the items or objects can be counted. So you would write or say, ‘fewer privileges’, ‘fewer lovers’, ‘fewer murders’.

‘It took less time than Jennifer expected to get rid of Jeffrey and suddenly she had fewer lovers.’

‘Jeffrey was less concerned about Jennifer’s clothes than she was and he soon had her body covered by fewer garments.’

Think about it like this: if it’s possible to have a few of them, use ‘fewer’.
But, if you can’t count individual items, use ‘less’.

12 August 1981 – IBM launched the PC.

Pic: Ripening corn.
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