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Word comparisons

Note 40 – The words ‘less’ and ‘fewer’

For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link – If you would prefer to dive straight into note 40, then please read on…

When to use the words less and fewer

The important differences between less and fewer are as follows:

According to The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis, the rules are:

  • Fewer is used with
    • plural nouns
    • people or things that can be counted
  • Less is used with
    • singular nouns 
    • quantities and numbers that give a quantity or size

Some examples are below: 

1. Fewer (the countable noun)

  • Fewer girls
  • Fewer chairs
  • Fewer people
  • Fewer sandwiches

Tip: To work out if this is correct, ask yourself if the girls, chairs, people and sandwiches can be counted.  As Jane Wenham-Jones says in her book Wannabe a Writer, “if you can’t work out if a noun is countable or countable, ask yourself if you can have three of them”. The answer to that would be yes – you can have three girls, three chairs, three people and three sandwiches.

2. Less (the uncountable noun)

  • Less writing
  • Less carpet
  • Less currency
  • Less time

With reference to the tip in point one above, you cannot have ‘three writing’, ‘three carpet’, ‘three currency’ and ‘three time’.  According to Strunk and White in their book The Elements of Style, less refers to quantity and fewer to a number.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s blog.  Thank you for your continued support.

Until tomorrow


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Twitter: @madeirasandra and @tipsandluxuries

Reference list

The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)

Wannabe a Writer Jane Wenham-Jones (2004), UK

The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White , fiftieth anniversary edition (2009), USA



About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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