Main Difference – Less vs. Fewer
Less and Fewer are two words that are often misused by many non-native and native English speakers. According to grammar rules, few is used with people and other countable things whereas less is used with uncountable nouns including mass nouns. This can be considered as the main difference between less and fewer.
Less – Meaning and Usage
Less means a smaller amount; not much. It is generally used with objects that cannot be counted; it can be used with qualities and quantities that cannot be counted. Less can be also used for singular mass nouns.
For example, less money, less sugar, less time, less air, less honesty, less water etc.
She was given less money to spend.
People want to spend less time in office.
Add less salt and more pepper to the soup.
He promised to return in less than an hour.
However, when less is used with than, a difference can be noted in this rule. In such instances, less can be used with numbers. Therefore, less than can be used to talk about numerical values such as money, weight, age, distance.
She was punished by her mother if she had less than 80% for the exams.
Her weight fell from 45kg to less than 40kg.
The party lasted less than two hours.
Objects that weigh less than 2kg are allowed inside.
Fewer – Meaning and Usage
Fewer implies how small a number of things or people are. It is the comparative form of few. Fewer is always used with countable nouns. The easiest way to remember the usage of this word is to associate fewer with plural things. Fewer is used with things that can be always counted one by one. We can use fewer with people, animals, trees, buildings, dollars, etc.
The city had fewer buildings back then.
As the year came to an end, there were fewer meetings.
Fewer women are willing to become housewives.
I spent fewer than 50$.
Children are reading fewer books.
Note that money (mass noun) is used with less, but a specific amount of money which can be counted is always used with fewer. In addition, we use fewer with numbers if the things denoted by the number are seen as individuals or units.
Difference Between Less and Fewer
Less is used with quantities and qualities that cannot be individually counted.
Fewer is used with things that can be counted one by one.
Less is used with mass nouns and uncountable nouns.
Fewer is used with plural countable nouns.
Less is used with numerals and measurements or time.
Fewer is used if the thing denoted by numbers are seen as individual units.
Many and Much
Less is equal to not as much.
Fewer is equal to not as many.
Part of Speech
Less is a determiner and pronoun.
Fewer is the comparative form of few.