Less vs. Fewer (fraction)

jpsl90

Senior Member
English- USA
Hi all,

I know the less vs. fewer argument is pretty expansive, but even after searching the internet, I am not sure what to do with this example.

"youth mentoring services are available in less/fewer than two-thirds of the states"

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For me, the only reason to consider "fewer" would be if we are considering "a third" as one of three individual countable items. In this example, and apparently much of printed English, people feel that "two-thirds" is an amount (i.e. uncountable, even if quantitative) rather than a countable item. I would liken it to "less than 66% of X" rather than "fewer than 66% of X" etc.
     

    jpsl90

    Senior Member
    English- USA
    The Google Ngram showing the frequency of "fewer than two-thirds" v "less than two-thirds" shows that there is a marked preference for "less than two-thirds" - in written English at least:
    https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=fewer+than+two+thirds,less+than+two+thirds&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1;,fewer than two thirds;,c0;.t1;,less than two thirds;,c0
    That's a cool tool! I can't believe I've never seen that before. And it seems like the general consensus is leaning towards "less than", so I'll probably go with that.
     
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