Difference Between Less Than and Fewer Than

The words ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ are used interchangeably. Both have the same meaning. They are the opposite of ‘more’. But when we use the words ‘less than’ and ‘fewer than’ there is a slight difference.

Less Than vs Fewer Than

The main difference between Less Than and fewer Than is that less than is used to refer to the small amount or small size of something. While Fewer than is used to refer to a small number in a given quantity. Less than is used for mass nouns. Fewer Than is used for Countable nouns. Less than is used for those items or things that cannot be counted. For example, The inflation rate in 2015 was less than 2020. Fewer Than is used where the given quantity can be counted. For example, Her shopping basket has fewer items than her friend’s shopping basket.

Less Than vs Fewer Than

There are exceptions like it is used in the plural nouns to represent distance, amount and time. Plastic, space, 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. In the case where percentage comes, it sometimes becomes difficult whether 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.

Comparison Table Between Less Than and Fewer Than

Parameters of ComparisonLess Than Fewer Than
Used forMassCounting
ReferenceDegreeQuantity
SpecifyVolumeNumber
ExceptionsUsed in plural nouns, with time, money, weight etc.Used with numbers and percentages.
ExamplesI 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 noun is preceded by a number 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

  1. Exceptions of Less Than is used in plural nouns, with time, money, weight etc. Exceptions of Fewer Than is used with numbers and percentages.
  2. 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.’
Difference Between Less Than and Fewer Than

Conclusion

Based on the singular or plural; noun also the difference is made between the two. In the formal settings, Less than is preferred. Whereas in an informal way, fewer than is preferred. If you use the wrong prescriptive grammar it doesn’t matter much unless it is awkward to the ears.

References

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.analchem.7b02380
  2. http://www.mathnet.ru/eng/semr487
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