less and fewer - the difference
The Quick AnswerUse less when referring to a single item.
Use fewer when referring to more than one item.
Fewer or LessWriters often misuse the words less and fewer. The word less should be used for a single item (e.g., less time, less space). The word fewer should be used when there is more than one item (e.g., fewer mice, fewer omissions).
- There is less cheese on this plate. (The word cheese is singular.)
- There are fewer pieces of cheese on this plate. (The word pieces is plural.)
- There are less pigeons in Trafalgar Square than there used to be. (should be fewer pigeons)
- In the future, there will be less coins in circulation. (should be fewer coins)
- Fewer people will vote in the forthcoming elections.
Quick TestSelect the correct version:
Adopt the Fewer/Less RulingMany people consider this ruling outdated. It is certainly not well observed by some large reputable companies. For example:
less bags (fewer bags )
less napkins (fewer napkins )
less emissions (fewer emissions )
Grammar Monster advises that you play it safe and adopt the ruling. Using less incorrectly may irk your readers. Using fewer correctly will showcase your grammar skills.