How To Worry Less About “Less” and “Fewer”

Less and fewer are an especially confusing pair of words.  Both words have the same essential meaning—the opposite of more—but each word has a unique application.  In my experience, it seems the word less is used a lot more often than it should be.

If you are describing something that can be counted one-by-one, fewer is the correct choice.  Less is intended to describe things that cannot be counted.  Sounds tricky, right?  Here’s an easy way to determine which word to use: if you can add “one,” “two,” or any number to the word or phrase you’re describing, fewer is your choice.

Let’s consider water as an example.  One lake, two rivers, three streams—these phrases all make sense.  Lakes, rivers, and streams can all be counted one-by-one, so fewer pairs with these words.  But one water?  That doesn’t work. Therefore, less water is the way to go.

Nevada has fewer lakes than Minnesota.

I will add less water to the soup next time.

On the other hand, if you’re describing gallons of water, fewer is the correct choice, because gallons can be counted one-by-one (one gallon, two gallons, three gallons).

Here are some less phrases: less time, less money, less flour, less fear

Here are some fewer phrases: fewer seconds, fewer dollars, fewer cups of flour, fewer limitations

For those businesses seeking fewer missed connections and less stress, our grammar-savvy team of remote receptionists is an excellent solution.

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