#193: Less vs. Fewer in English — Advanced English Grammar
When you begin to reach a more advanced level in your English skills, it’s important to fine-tune the little things. To fine-tune means to make small changes in order to improve or make something exactly right.
And that’s what we want to do with your English grammar skills today. We’re going to fine-tune your skills with two commonly confused words: less vs. fewer in English.
Less and fewer both mean the opposite of more. Because they have the same meaning, they are easily confused and there’s an increased likelihood of making mistakes.
For example: In this sentence, which word should I use?
- I know you want to make less/fewer mistakes in English.
In today’s Confident English lesson, you’ll learn:
- a general rule of thumb* to follow when deciding whether to use less or fewer
- 4 important exceptions with examples
- tips for how to practice and remember this grammar rule.
Less vs. Fewer in English — Advanced Grammar
General Rule of Thumb for Choosing Less vs. Fewer
In short, fewer is used when we’re talking about count nouns* and less is used with noncount nouns*. Let’s look at some examples.
Here are 3 common count nouns: tourists, cars, mistakes
- During the winter months, there are fewer tourists here in Washington DC.
- With improved public transportation options, there are fewer cars on the road, which is definitely improving traffic congestion in the city.
- Understanding the differences between less and fewer will result in fewer mistakes.
And now let’s look at three common noncount nouns: light, salt, stress
- The winter months are so tough because there’s less sunlight during the day and the nights are long.
- The doctor said he should eat less salt.
- In an effort to have less stress in my life, I’m working to develop a meditation habit.
*For a full list of count and noncount nouns to practice with, please continue to review the lesson below.
4 Exceptions When Choosing Less vs. Fewer
Thankfully, there are not a lot of exceptions and there are just 4 categories to remember.
- Distance (miles, kilometers, meters, inches, etc.)
- Money (dollars, cents, euros, pesos, rupee, etc.)
- Time/Weight (hours, minutes, days, years, pounds, kilos, ounces, etc.)
- Statistical information (75,000 people, percentages, etc.)
To help, let’s review some examples:
- We have less than 100 km to go. We’re almost there!
- Wow! We can get tickets to Rome for less than $100 right now.
- The price of milk is $2 less at the other grocery store.
- We have less than 48 hours to get this project finished!
- He weighs 3 kilos less after consistently working out for the past couple of months.
- There were less than 20 people at the event.
Practice Using Less vs. Fewer in English
Use the lists of count and noncount nouns below to practice creating example sentences with the right choice of less or fewer.
You can share your example sentences in the comments section below.
Common Count Nouns
Common Noncount Nouns
In today’s lesson, I shared my top strategy to learn and remember this grammar rule: time, focused practice, and repetition.
Follow that formula to ensure that you develop automaticity for when to use less vs. fewer in English.
A good way to do that is to practice with the word lists above including:
- Common count nouns
- Common noncount nouns
- Nouns in the ‘exception’ categories
As always, you can share with me in the comments below. It’s the best way to practice, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community.
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This video was helpful to me, you explain in a clear way now I know how to use less and fewer, I need to practice to make fewer mistakes. thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Hi Annemarie, You’re the best when It comes to creative lessons.
Here are my examples.
Due to the pandemic, Egypt has fewer tourists than before.
I’d love to live in a city with fewer cars
Practicing conversations helps me to communicate in English with fewer mistakes.
at night I like to stay in my room with less light.
The hardest diet for me is when I have to eat my meals with less salt.
since I started learning yoga, I have had less stress than before.
Thanks for the kind comment, Nada! And wonderful job using less vs. fewer in your sentences. Perfectly done.
Hello Annemarie, thanks again for sharing your lessons for free. This one was a really good session, as always I must said 😉 Unfortunately, as the end of the year is just around the corner I have less time to listen to your lessons. The reason why is because I have fewer projects to manage but they are much bigger. In this period where a lot of people are working from home I really enjoy driving as there are fewer cars on the roads or in other words less traffic. The majority of the drivers are tourists but due to… Read more »
Hi Gaama, I’m so pleased that my lesson was helpful. And excellent work with your example sentences here. You’ve used less and fewer perfectly well.
Hi Annemarie, Thank you so much for this amazing lesson, it’s definitely very useful for me. *) I was too busy with my projects last year, so that’s why I accepted fewer projects this year. *) Because of Covid 19 there were fewer tourists at the airport yesterday. *) I listen to the music less than before. *) Because my trip takes just about 2 days I will carry fewer suitcases with myself. *) I add less salt to my dad’s soup because he has blood pressure and salt is not good for his health. *) When I travel abroad… Read more »
Wonderful examples, Soudabeh!! I’m thrilled this lesson was so helpful to you.
thank you for your lesson it is useful for me
there are some examples I make:
Thanks for sharing your examples, Hang.
A few notes:
Hi Anne Marie,
Thanks for a very well organised lesson. I have learnt not only English but also a way to deliver a speech. It makes me less stressful when I need to talk in English. Hopefully I can become a confident English speaker in the future with fewer mistakes like I do now.
Thank you so much!
I’m glad you enjoyed the lesson, Van!
There are fewer museums in SC than in Oregon.
This week I have less work.
Great examples, Oksana!
Thank you for this wonderful lesson.
Here are my examples:
Thanks for sharing your examples, Cletus! Well done.
Due to Corona there are fewer tourists at the airport
If a practice my English more I’ll do fewer mistakes
Thanks to a well public transport organization there are fewer cars in the city this year
I need to add less sugar to take my glycemia under control
Less stress more happiness!!!
If you close the curtains less sunlight will pass through the window warming the room up
Great examples, Orlando!!!
There’s one little change I recommend. Let’s change the verb used here, ” I’ll ___ fewer mistakes.” Do you know what it should be?
Now in lockdown I have less job to do. Sad that there are fewer tourists in town. Happy that before lockdown I had less free time
Hi Daniele, lockdown has certainly been challenging. Thank you for sharing your example. We would want to make just one word change. Rather that ‘job’ we would use ‘work.’ I have less work to do now.
I’d like to compliment you on the way that you use to teach and help us to learn how speak more fluent English!
thanks you so much!
Thanks for the compliment, Angela! I’m glad my lessons are helpful!
There were fewer desk in the exam room because of social distance between the students.
Mr X had explained earlier about the misuse of phones , Our bill will be less this monthend if we maintain the rules .
Firstly let me thank you for the lesson you gave us ,it was useful and productive.
Let me share my examples.
I have less hours before I wake up my son .
MY son has to practise maths before he goes to school, that will lower his stress.
People were fewer in this black friday unlike last year
I don’t think I will make time my car has fewer petrol I need to start at petrol station first.
Thanks for sharing your examples, Pelo!
A couple of notes. In sentence 1, the noun is ‘hours.’ It’s a countable noun. So which word should we use?
In this sentence, “People were fewer in this black friday unlike last year” we would be more likely to start with, “There were fewer people…” How would you finish the sentence with that word order?
Thanks Annemarie again for your Wednesday lesson. I enjoy every single lesson that you share with us. Wish you Good luck!
Hi Nasrin, great examples! You definitely understood the difference with less and fewer. One note:
In this sentence, let’s change the verb, “My husband’s doctor told him to ____ less sugar because of his diabetes.” What could we use?
Hi Annemarie, it’s always a pleasure to watch your lessons. Believe me, I thought it is very easy to know when to use fewer and when to use less but I guessed wrong when it came to the example of mistakes :/
Hi Haifa, thanks so much for the comment and I’m so glad this lesson was helpful. You’re not alone. It’s these little things (like prepositions and articles, too) that take time to perfect. I hope you’ll share some practice sentences.
Hi Annemarie, thaks for this useful lesson, I finally understand clearly the difference of these two words! So, here’s some practice:
You need to eat fewer chocolates and candies if you want to weigh less than 50kg!
There are fewer songs in my playlist than yours, because I listen to less music than you do.
This will be a Christmas with fewer presents and less joy…
Yesterday I found fewer clothes at the store, because they sold all on Black Friday!
Great work, Annalisa! I was impressed that you used both less and fewer in two of your sentences. Also, I’m hopeful that your Christmas will still have a LOT of joy, even if things are not what we want this year.
I promise to myself a new deal of life developing a morning routine to have less stress!
She eat less chocholate today.
In winter time are fewer tourist in Cagliari.
If you work less time in a week, probably you will have fewer headache.
Awesome, Cinzia! I love your examples sentences here and I’m very curious about your new morning routine.
There are just a couple things to fine-tune:
Great job using both less and fewer in your last example. 🙌