Fewer - less

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Fewer and less are two words with very similar meanings. The are both the opposite of 'more'. Their only real difference is grammatical, and to appreciate it you must understand the difference between countable and non-countable nouns.

  • less is used with non-count nouns. You can have "less rainfall", for example, or "less furniture".
  • fewer is used with count nouns: "fewer cars", "fewer people". In everyday usage, less is often mistakenly used instead of fewer, as in the infamous supermarket checkout sign "Ten items or less".

There are other pairs of words with this distinction: 'many' and 'much', and also 'few' and 'little'. Few people seem to have problems with these: "is there much custard left?", "are there many sweets left?", "there are few cars on the street", "there is little rainfall in the desert".