Fewer and less respectively refer to a number of items, or an amount of something.
Fewer and less respectively refer to a number of items, or an amount of something. The easiest way to remember which of these adjectives to use in a given situation is this:
Fewer should be used when the items in question can be counted.
She has fewer books than her brother.
Less is used when the amount of something cannot be counted.
She has less interest in reading than her brother.
Note that books can be counted item by item. However, interest is not a thing that can be counted, though we can discuss how much of it someone has.
The basic difference here is countability. Use fewer for countable nouns like individuals, cars, and pens. Use less for uncountable nouns such as love, time, and paper. Do note, however, that there are some sticky spots to watch out for when determining whether you should use fewer or less. For example, you might need less paper but you will need fewer sheets of paper.
(For more detail and other grammar tips visit www.writingforward.com. Extract of this article published with permission from the author Melissa Donovan.)
Thank you to newsletter subscriber Rob Masters for suggesting this tip. If you would like to suggest a Commonly Misused Word that annoys you, please email Michelle Adams on [email protected].