There are <fewer/less> fish. <Fewer/less> people study ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sevengem, Mar 7, 2010.

  1. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    I found both versions.

    There are fewer fish to catch now.
    There are less fish to catch now.

    Fewer people study Latin today than formerly.
    Less people study Latin today than formerly. fish and people countable or uncountable? :confused:
  2. lian.alon22 Senior Member

    Countable, but both versions are correct.
  3. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Well, are there any other words also like this? I fear I might make a mistake.
  4. lian.alon22 Senior Member

    Hmmm... I'm not sure, but I feel like if you have a doubt, go with "fewer", because in both of your examples that's what I would have chosen. Come to think of it, if it is countable, just go with "fewer".
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I was expecting to respond to sevengem's statement about finding both forms with a comment about "... but did you look at how many of each you found"?
    But I looked, and I can't.
    All Google cautions apply:
    about 25,900 for "there are fewer fish
    about 46,700 for "there are less fish
    about 692,000 for "there are fewer people
    about 660,000 for "there are less people

    Better have a look in the corpora.
    As expected, the BNC reports 161 "fewer people", 27 "less people" (COCA: 681, 74, respectively). I had to remove "there are", otherwise the numbers were too small to be significant.

    BNC - British National Corpus
    COCA - Corpus of Contemporary American English
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    There is much argument about whether "less" is or is not standard English.

    Most of the style and usage guides for AE make two points:

    1. Use less for singular nouns or units of measure. Use fewer for plural nouns or numbers of items.

    2. The error label for the use of less where fewer is preferred is too strong. The use of less for countable items is widespread, and it certainly not new.
  7. Caroline35 Senior Member

    I think that fewer people is better. One uses less before uncountable names.
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think much of what Cuchu says is true, and that there is, as in many things, a division between the careful, the educated (use which adjective you prefer), and other people.

    Can you count people? - How many people came to your meeting? Only three - Yes, you can, so I say fewer people.

    How many fish did you catch? Fifty. So, in this case, it's fewer fish.

    Fish can, however, also be uncountable, - How much fish can you eat? About half a pound - and this complicates the issue. The context usually tells us if we are dealing with the countable or uncountable version.

    I haven't yet heard people talking about fewer butter.
  9. koniecswiata Senior Member

    Am English
    Traditional Grammar says to use "fewer" for (countable) plural nouns--much the same rules as govern "How many" and "How much". However, this seems to practically be in a state of flux. "Fewer" seems to be going out of use, bit by bit. You may notice the same thing happening with "there is" taking the place of "there are" in a lot of discourse.

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