The Grammar Guide Adjectives: An Easy Guide with Examples When should I use "less" and when should I use "fewer"?

When should I use "less" and when should I use "fewer"?

When should I use "less" and when should I use "fewer"?

Less and fewer have similar meanings, but they are not interchangeable. Fewer is used for things that can be counted. Less is used for amounts of things that are more abstract or unable to be counted.

Incorrect: I have fewer money than you.

Correct: I have less money than you.

Incorrect: I have less coins than you.

Correct: I have fewer coins than you.

Less and fewer are commonly confused words. They have a similar meaning, but they are used differently. Less is used for more abstract concepts or for things that aren't easily countable. People often use less when they mean fewer. If you are talking about items that can be counted, you will use fewer to be grammatically correct.

What are some examples of nouns that use fewer? The test is to see whether these items are countable. They tend to be less abstracts. Some countable nouns might be: pets, houses, trees, ingredients, and eggs.

Less is reserved for things that can't be counted or are more abstract. Here are some examples: love, flour, water, and faith.

You can have less money but fewer coins. Money is a more abstract concept than coins. You might have less salt but fewer grams of salt. Grams are countable, but a pile of salt is not.

Incorrect: Ten items or less

Correct: Ten items or fewer

Incorrect: Use fewer butter next time.

Correct: Use less butter next time.

Incorrect: She has less dogs than her neighbor.

Correct: She has fewer dogs than her neighbor.

Incorrect: We have fewer time than before.

Correct: We have less time than before.

Test yourself

Choose the missing word in each question.