one less/fewer car

Discussion in 'English Only' started by olcountrylawyer, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. olcountrylawyer Senior Member

    La España profunda
    The American Slanguage
    I'm a cycling advocate, and many of us have stickers on our bikes that say one less car or one car less. Although I agree with the sentiment, I'm rather dubious about the grammar. As car is a count noun, it seems to me that fewer would be more appropriate here. Am I correct or is this an exception to the rule?
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Exactly - fewer it is!

    In supermarkets you see aisles set aside for, e.g., "10 items or less" The argument then breaks out as to whether it is "The number of the items must be less than 11" or "10 items or fewer."
  3. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Yes, you are.
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    This is a subject the prescriptivists get excited about. Clearly we say less sugar and fewer pencils, but one less car is what many people do actually say, and there is a case for saying that the old rule has had its day and that there is little point in getting purple in the face and simplistic about it: this case is put quite interestingly here, I think.

    It's hard to summarize for future generations coming to this thread should the link have stopped working, but the table of media sources using the two is interesting:

    Site - one fewer - one less

    BBC 5% - 95%
    Times 23% - 77%
    Sun 24% - 75%
    New York Times 26% - 74%
    Telegraph 15% - 85%
    Guardian 15% - 85%
    Google News 18% - 82%
  5. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    "One fewer car"? That sounds very strange to my ears. Would that have to be "one fewer cars"? There's one less rule I worry about when the item in question is in a singular state of assembly. Two fewer rules if you count rule 13.

    I'm in favour of "One less X" and "Two (or more :eek:) fewer X's"f

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