less/fewer marks

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ThomasWongWY, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. ThomasWongWY Member

    Hong Kong

    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!
  2. dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    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: Sep 22, 2017
  3. ThomasWongWY Member

    Hong Kong
    But would you say "full marks" if you got a mark of 100 (out of 100)?
  4. velisarius

    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".
  5. dona83 Senior Member

    I think it would be better if you said ' I got better / worse marks than you '
  6. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    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.
  7. Scrawny goat Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    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.
  8. entangledbank

    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.
  9. dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    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".
  10. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    "Fewer dollars" is not ridiculous in AmE, but "fewer mashed potatoes" is, or at least borders on, ridiculous.
  11. ThomasWongWY Member

    Hong Kong
    Thank you, all!

    It seems that, to play safe, I'd better say "a worse/better mark".

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