I’ll admit it: I’m a grammar nazi.
One of the things I’m a grammar nazi about is “less” and “fewer.’
People are constantly using them wrong and it drives me crazy! I hear things such as “We have less buns than hamburgers” and “I got less turns than he did!” I hear “less” when “fewer” should be used, but not “fewer” when “less” should be used. In general, only people who actually know the difference every use “fewer.”
So which one should you use? There is a simple rule to keep it straight: fewer French fries, less mashed potatoes. Basically, if you can have one of something (you can count it), use “fewer”. If you can’t have just one, you can only have some, (you can’t count it), use “less.”
Things you can have “fewer” of:
Things you can have “less” of:
- Shoe polish
You get the idea. (At least, I hope you do!)
I think some of the confusion may come from the opposite word to less and fewer, which is “more.” Whether you have hamburgers or mayonnaise, if you want some more, you ask for it in the same way.
Now that you know the difference between “less” and “fewer,” you too can feel irritated every time you hear someone using the wrong word. Hooray for education!