The words ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ are used interchangeably. Both have the same meaning. They are the opposite of ‘more’. But there is a slight difference when we use the words ‘less than’ and ‘fewer than’.
- “Less than” applies to uncountable nouns or continuous quantities, whereas “fewer than” relates to countable nouns.
- “Less than” is appropriate for abstract concepts like time and money, while “fewer than” describes specific numbers or objects.
- Incorrect usage of “less than” and “fewer than” can lead to ambiguous or grammatically incorrect statements.
Less Than vs Fewer Than
Less than” is used when comparing an uncountable quantity or a quantity that cannot be easily divided into discrete units. Examples are time and temperature, etc. “Fewer than” is used when comparing a countable quantity that can be divided into discrete units. Examples are animals and objects.
There are exceptions, like it is used in the plural nouns to represent distance, amount and time. Plastic, space, and water are some of the uncountable things. But to make them countable, we use the words like Less than. In the case of money, we think that money can be counted.
Rebecca has fewer than twenty dollars left. When the percentage comes, it sometimes becomes difficult to use Less than or fewer than. So we have to see the big picture and think that what is the percentage we are talking about? Then it becomes easy to use.
|Parameters of Comparison||Less Than||Fewer Than|
|Exceptions||Used in plural nouns, with time, money, weight etc.||Used with numbers and percentages.|
|Examples||I have less than 30 minutes to reach home.||He has fewer than 50 rupees in his wallet.|
What is Less Than?
Less Than, according to grammar, should be used with a singular noun. It includes mass nouns as well. However, according to grammarians, this rule cannot be applied correctly in modern times.
We cannot use fewer than in this sentence because it is awkward and becomes unexpected. With time, also Less than seems exceptional. As time can be counted in minutes, hours and seconds.
Less than is used in the formal language. It is used to specify the volume or mass of the quantities.
What is Fewer Than?
Fewer Than is used when we have to count things. For example, Come to this shop if you want to check the fewer than 10 items. Similarly, Fewer than can be used for fewer buses and fewer homes.
If a number precedes a noun, then it becomes easier to remember that Fewer Than should be used. Fewer than is used for the plural noun. Fewer Than is also used with the percentage.
When using the sentence for grocery items, fewer than can be used. If more than twelve items are there. Because it is counted as a plural noun.
Main Differences Between Less Than and Fewer Than
- Exceptions of Less Than is used in plural nouns, with time, money, weight etc. Exceptions of Fewer Than is used with numbers and percentages.
- An example of Less than is ‘I have less than 30 minutes to reach home’. An example of Fewer than is ‘He has fewer than 50 rupees in his wallet.’
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Emma Smith holds an MA degree in English from Irvine Valley College. She has been a Journalist since 2002, writing articles on the English language, Sports, and Law. Read more about me on her bio page.