People are often confused when it comes to using Fewer or Less in a sentence. Even native speakers  make grammatical  mistakes with these two easily confused words. Today we’re going to clarify this doubt because correct grammar is important if you want to keep on improving your English and make it sound more natural.

Lets’s start with a question!

 

Less viewers or fewer viewers?

We’ll confirm the answer towards the end, but first let’s look at fewer and less separately.

Fewer meaning

Fewer  is the comparative of few, and we use it before countable nouns . To clarify the meaning of countable nouns, simply think of ideas or things that can be counted. These include nouns such as:

  • Table
  • Bottle
  • Job
  • Journey 
  • Battery
  • Song
  • Euro
  • People

 

More examples of Fewer before countable nouns

 

Fewer clients

 

Fewer numbers

Less meaning

Less is the comparative of little and we use it before uncountable nouns, also known as mass nouns. To help you understand the meaning of uncountable nouns, simply think of ideas or things that cannot be counted. For example, we can’t count ‘water‘. On the other hand we can count ‘bottles of water

 

Here are a some more examples of uncountable nouns with Less:

 

  • music, art, love, happiness, peace
  • news, advice, information
  • furniture, luggage
  • rice, bread, water, sugar
  • power, electricity, work

More examples of Less before uncountable nouns

Less welfare, less healthcare, less housing

Less money

Where to use Fewer and Less

So, here’s the answer from the clip at the beginning :

 

Less viewers or fewer viewers?

 

As we explained above,  we can count viewers, so this noun is countable, and goes with fewer. 

Therefore, as a general rule, if you can count something, choose fewer. If you can’t, go for less.

Native speakers also confuse fewer & less

Having established a rule for when to use fewer or less, it needs to be pointed out that native English speakers increasingly use less with plural countable nouns. For example, you will often hear » We have less people at the meeting than we expected.» (traditionally correct form: fewer people).

Although this may be considered  informal English, it is grammatically incorrect. In fact, some people might even correct you like in the following clip:

Fewer or less?

By now you should know the difference between fewer and less,  so why not leave us a comment with your answer!