Less? or Fewer? ~ 5 Minute Grammar Lesson #BB100

Today is Day 7 in the Boost Your Blog in 100 Days Grammar series. I’ve got a few more commonly mistaken word posts in store for you, and then a wrap up post on Day 10. 

Less? or Fewer? - A grammar lesson

Here’s another mistake I see a lot – using less than instead of fewer than. Check out the following sentences:

Less? or Fewer?

  • Can you use less sugar in that recipe?
  • Would you like less stress in your life?
  • I’d like less tomatoes on my salad.
  • Can you send less emails on a daily basis?

The word less is only used correctly in two of them, which means that two of them are wrong. Do you know which ones?


The rule here has to do with count and non-count nouns. If you can count the number of nouns you’re referring to, use Fewer. If you can’t count them, use Less. That classic sign at the grocery store: 10 Items or Less? WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. It should be: 10 Items or Fewer.

In the grocery store, you can count the items in your basket, so the word FEWER is technically correct. You can also make the noun “items” plural. That’s another good test. And if you can make the noun plural, you should use FEWER.

Say whaaat? 🙂 Use the word LESS if you can’t count the items. You can’t really count the coffee in your cup, so you should say, I should drink LESS coffee.  But, if you’re European, you could say, I should drink FEWER coffees. That might be ok! 😉

See how the plural rule works? You can’t really make clutter plural, right? I should have fewer clutters at my house? Nope. It should be: I should have less clutter at my house.

If you’d like to practice, here’s a quiz you can take.

Less or Fewer 5 Minute Grammar Lesson #BB100

Check yourself! After reading this post, comment and let me know which two of the first four examples are correct and which are wrong!

This 5 Minute Grammar Lesson is dedicated to my friend Robin…who taught me the difference between these two words! (Of course, I never admitted to her that I didn’t know!) HI, ROBIN!!! 🙂

More grammar posts you may like:

Your welcome or You’re welcome?

How to make the word PEOPLE possessive

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Should have gone or Should have went?

 

If you’re looking for helpful grammar books, here are my top picks:

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

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Comments

  1. Augh. One of my (many) pet peeves. I've been known to mutter "fewer!" under my breath in the express grocery line. :)
  2. The correct answers are: fewer tomatoes...fewer e-mails. This one comes pretty naturally for me. I took the test you posted and made 100% on it without putting much thought into it. However it is nice to know the official rule for those times when it is not obvious.

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