Less versus Fewer

July 8, 2011 by edotgdot

10 items or less fewer!


Less versus fewer is a common blunder.


The “10 items or less” sign in grocery stores is a good and frequently used example of how to differentiate “less” and “fewer.” The sign stating “10 items or less” is grammatically incorrect. (Has a good ring to it though, marketers). The sign should be “10 items or fewer” because the items in a grocery cart are countable.


For example:

Mary has fewer apples than her neighbor Pam.


Generally speaking, use the word “less” for things that cannot be tallied or for words that do not have a plural, such as:


Joe has less water in his basement than Bob.


For instance, when talking about time, money, and distance. One would not proclaim to have “fewer time” but rather, “less time.”


“Less” is more frequently used while “fewer” falls by the wayside. Remember, if you can count it, use the word “fewer.”


Sources: Grammar Girl; elearnenglishlanguage.com


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