There are <fewer/less> people ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Er.S.M.M.Hanifa, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Er.S.M.M.Hanifa Banned

    Hi everybody,
    The use of 'fewer' is giving me tough time.
    1. There are -fewer- people here than there were yesterday.
    2. He had -fewer- men than in the previous campaign.
    Some of my friends say, "I should use 'less' in the place of 'fewer'.
    Please guide me with your comment.
  2. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Type fewer less in the lookup dictionary box above, and you will find many threads on this subject.

    PS: Your friends are wrong! :D
  3. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I try to be as understanding as I can about language, but the fewer/less issue remains one of my pet peeves (pet hates for my British friends). As SwissPete notes, you need fewer or newer friends... or something like that. :D
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think the simple rule is that fewer is for countables, like friends, and less for uncountables, like beer. There are complications, as the other threads will tell you.
  5. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    One complication you won't have is putting them together, in which case you would have fewer beerfriends.

    Thanks for the new word, Thomas -- it's got that "b" in "boy" and "eer" in "girl" (sort of) and they're friends. I think we can even verbify it: Beerfriend someone today. Cheers!
  6. CanuckPete Member

    Toronto, Canada
    English - Canada
    Fewer for more than one item: Fewer than 20 people showed up for the conference.

    Less for uncountables: We should pay less tax. But, you would say we should pay fewer taxes, and not less taxes.

    Stylistically, however, I will agree that 'or less' sounds better than 'or fewer'. Admit it: 10 items or less sounds better than 10 items or fewer. I would never say less than 10 items, though.

    Beer buddies is the term used in Canada. :)

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