less and fewer - the difference

The Quick Answer
Use less when referring to a single item.
Use fewer when referring to more than one item.

Fewer or Less

Writers 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).

Examples:
  • 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.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Are collective nouns singular or plural? Singular or plural verbs after prepositional phrases (e.g. a box of tapes) List of easily confused words