less/fewer marks

ThomasWongWY

Member
Cantonese
Hello,

I know that “mark” is a countable noun, and therefore we should use “fewer” with it. However, what confuses me is that there are so many people saying “less marks” on the Internet.

So, which is considered right in the following situation?
//
A: How did you do in the Maths exam?
B: Oh, I got less/fewer marks than you.
//

Thanks a lot!
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In AE (American English), neither B1 (less) or B2 (fewer) is correct. Anyone taking an exam gets one mark (A,B,C) or one score (100, 90, 68, 74) for the exam.

    If you get a perfect score, your got a score (a mark) of 100. You didn't "get 100 marks".

    So B might say he got a lower mark than A.
     
    Last edited:

    ThomasWongWY

    Member
    Cantonese
    Neither B1 (less) or B2 (fewer) is correct.

    Anyone taking an exam gets one mark (A,B,C) or one score (100, 90, 68, 74) for the exam.

    If you get a perfect score, your got a score (a mark) of 100. You didn't "get 100 marks".

    So B might say he got a lower mark than A.
    But would you say "full marks" if you got a mark of 100 (out of 100)?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In BE we do talk about getting marks in an exam. Many native speakers get confused or don't bother to distinguish between "fewer" and "less".
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think it would be better if you said ' I got better / worse marks than you '
    Much better.

    I got a better (or higher) mark than Mary in the maths exam. I got worse marks (or lower marks) than her in all the other subjects though.
     

    Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    In BE we do talk about getting marks in an exam. Many native speakers get confused or don't bother to distinguish between "fewer" and "less".
    This is true, but 'less marks' sounds awful to me- it's something I always want to correct when I hear it.

    'Fewer marks' sounds right to me. #2 above is compelling, but does not correspond to my experience as a native speaker from Ireland. Comparing grades at school we grew up with 'How many marks did you get? I got ten out of ten'. We rarely said 'what mark did you get?' And if we did the answer would be 'I got an A', not a score-based result.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Less marks' is standard English and just as good as 'fewer marks', which sounds almost wrong when talking about quantities ( :cross:'fewer dollars' is ridiculous, and 'fewer days' often is). The supposed rule about 'fewer' is rubbish.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Clearly this is a BE/AE difference. I should have put "in AE" in my comments in #2. Sorry.

    I'll edit #2 now to add "in AE".
     
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