few less / a few less

wallander

Senior Member
Spanish
Hi there,

less chocolate, more chocolate, a little more chocolate, little more chocolate
Fewer biscuits, more biscuits, a few more biscuits, few more biscuits

I think all of those are correct but what about these?

a few less biscuits
few less biscuits

thanks in advance
 
  • wallander

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    "fewer biscuits" would be like "little chocolate" but How do you say "little less chocolate" and "a little less chocolate" but with countable nouns?
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hi there,

    less chocolate, more chocolate, a little more chocolate, little more chocolate
    Fewer biscuits, more biscuits, a few more biscuits, few more biscuits

    I think all of those are correct but what about these?

    a few less biscuits
    few less biscuits
    In the absence of context I consider 'little more chocolate' and 'few more biscuits' to be incorrect. You need to use the article in both cases: 'a little less chocolate' and 'a few more biscuits'. Purists insist on using 'fewer' rather than 'less' with count nouns. Thus 'a few fewer biscuits'.

    'Fewer biscuits' and 'a few fewer biscuits' are both correct, but the meanings are different.
     

    abb1025

    Senior Member
    USA
    English USA
    I agree that purists prefer few over less with countable nouns, (fewer buscuits, less ice cream), though there are exceptions such as time (he has less than six months to live), money (he has less than 10 dollars in his wallet), and distance (it is less than ten miles to the next town.)

    However, a few less is another story. There's nothing wrong with using a few less with countable nouns.

    He has a few less biscuits than his brother. There are only a few less biscuits in this package than in that one. Now that I'm on a diet, I'm eating a few less biscuits.

    In contrast, with uncountables, little would be used in place of few. He eats a little less chocolate than I do.

    "A few fewer" is a possible construction, but I've never seen or heard it, and it sounds very odd to my ear.
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    However, a few less is another story. There's nothing wrong with using a few less with countable nouns.

    "A few fewer" is a possible construction, but I've never seen or heard it, and it sounds very odd to my ear.
    In AE 'less' is often used with count nouns instead of 'fewer'. At express checkout counters I routinely see "10 items or less". The repetition of 'few' in 'a few fewer' is probably non-euphonious to many people, making them more inclined to use 'a few less'.

    Note the following from 2008:

    Tesco has bowed to pressure from those lobbying for the use of good English and have altered checkout signs reading "ten items or less" in the interests of being grammatically correct.

    From now on, signs in new stores are to say "up to 10 items" after a long running argument with those who have objected to the use of the word "less" in that context.

    Many have argued that the signs ought to read "ten items or fewer" instead of "ten items or less".

    "The new signs will be in the rolling out of new stores. We are not going to see any new ones in existing shops so shoppers in those will not see the change."




     
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