Less vs. Fewer

Poor Fewer. Its cousin, Less, is a self-centered attention hog who thinks nothing of taking Fewer’s place in a sentence, even when it is not invited and has no right to be there.

You have heard and read things similar to these examples, I’m sure. They should all say fewer:

Less people showed up than I expected.


The new parking lot holds less cars than the old one.


There are less strippers at this dive than they promised on the website!


People of Earth… Your choice is simple. Learn to the proper use of these terms. Or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We will be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you!

day 2

OK, perhaps that was a bit harsh. Maybe some of you would prefer a refresher before we bust out the Death Star. Here’s the deal:

Fewer is for things you can count. Cars, people, cockroaches, numbers of characters played by Tyler Perry or Mike Myers in a single film.

Less if for things that come in degrees or mass. The general term money, destruction, flavor, clothing (less clothing can be good or bad, depending on who’s under it).

The gift I’m about to offer isn’t useful in all cases (such as plural nouns that don’t change form, like deer), but the general concept of this mnemonic device I’ve created should nonetheless be helpful: It’s Less without an S.

Correct examples of Fewer…

1. Fewer monsters appeared in Terror of MechaGodzilla than in its immediate predecessor, Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, which disappointed the mature adult male who has both films on DVD.*

*Not really. He likes them both the same.

2. Pete Townsend typically has fewer intact guitar strings at the end of the concert than he does at the beginning.

3. There were fewer people alive in Argos after Zeus released the Kraken to attack the city. Damn. That guy doesn’t [EXPLETIVE DELETED] around!

4. I had fewer singles in my wallet after my visit to Leather and Lace in Newark.

Correct examples of Less…

1. The Millennium Falcon had less damage than one would expect after it flew through an asteroid field.

2. Now that I’ve been transferred to maximum security, I have less time for conjugal visits. Rats. Meanwhile, Mrs. B has all the time in the world for non-conjugal visits.

3. Any woman will tell you. Frank Hammer, the 6’4” decathlete, concert pianist, and sometime male model is far less of a man than 5’3”Archibald Crinkle is with both hands tied behind his back and his underwear pulled up over his head. Sure, Archie has a weak chin, a high-pitched voice, an unassertive demeanor, and blotchy skin, but, darn it, he’s nice.

4. I have much less patience by the time I’m trying to come up with my eighth overall example on a blog post. In fact, sometimes I just want to stop in the mid


Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a relevant song for this post, so I’m just going to share this unheralded mid-1960s classic, I Want to Be With You, by the late, awesome Dee Dee Warwick, sister of Dionne Warwick, niece of Cissy Houston, and cousin of Whitney. Can you fathom the singing DNA in this family?

Tell me if Dee Dee’s voice isn’t a mocha latte with whipped crème and a teaspoon of sugar!




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