People may have corrected you from time to time on your use of “fewer” or “less” in So what’s the difference? sentences.
The issue is a matter of count nouns vs. non-count nouns.
Use “fewer” when you are speaking about things that can be counted and are in the plural. These are nouns like “desks,” “essays,” and “students”:
- There are fewer desks in that classroom than there are students.
- Professors have decided to assign fewer essays in senior courses.
- Fewer students attended the football games than last year.
Use “less” for non-count nouns. These are items that don’t have a plural and can’t ordinarily be counted like “toner,” “music,” and “panic.”
- It’s possible to change your printer settings if you want to use less toner.
- He’s been listening to less music since he began studying for the finals.
- Now that our college has subscribed to EssayJack, there’s less panic at the end of term.
Some nouns can be used with both “fewer” and “less” depending on whether they are singular or plural. Decide which word belongs in the blank in each of the following sentences:
- The dorm supervisor asked that there be ______ noise in the hallways.
- There is ______ tax on raw peanuts than on those that have been roasted.
- My cousins had _____ fears about travelling abroad than most people their age.
- Now that the door hinges have been oiled, I hear ______ noises at night.
- We pay ______ taxes than people do in other states.
- There is ______ fear of an attack now that we have a guard on watch all night.
Scroll down for the answers!
Answers: 1) Less 2) Less 3) Fewer 4) Fewer 5) Fewer 6) Less