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Using fewer and less correctly

by on 4 Jun, 2011

When should you use less and when you should you use fewer?

It seems fewer people are sure of the answer these days. Or should that be less people? (Just kidding. Of course it should be fewer.)

I get the idea that fewer people understand how to use them because I keep seeing them used incorrectly.  Not too long ago, for instance, I saw a large billboard that boasted that the car it was advertising had less emissions.

Wrong! Should have been fewer.

Why? Because fewer is for when you can count figures. Less is for a mass that you can’t count. So the car might cause less pollution but it has, I would argue, fewer emissions (because those are measurable).

Like so many grammar mistakes, it is easy to avoid misusing less and fewer when you know the rule.

It’s a simple test. So my question is, why didn’t anyone else apply it? No one at the ad agency, or the client, or even the billboard company. No one!

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From → Grammar

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