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Fewer or Less?

So here is my dilemma, or should I say was my dilemma. When to use ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’. I feel shame at my lack of linguistic skills when English is my first language. But up until about 14 years ago I didn’t know I was using the wrong words. A friend corrected me one day, and all these years later I am still finding it hard to get the right usage to come naturally to me.

The worse thing is that as it doesn’t come naturally to me I now correct myself after the fact. And to be honest I have been told in my research of this rather tedious subject that a lot of other people make the same mistake, and I am therefore highlighting my inadequate grasp of the English language by doing this.

Here is my theory on how I believe it doesn’t really matter and what to blame for this oddity. I blame mathematics. There you go, i said it, maths is to blame. Not just for those miserable years studying it at school but how it has rendered me unable to grasp, apparently the simplest, of ‘meanings’.

So let us begin…


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I walked into a room where I was expecting there to be the usual 25 chairs, there were only 20 chairs. According to the table above 20 chairs is less than 25 chairs. So why would I not say there are less chairs rather than there are fewer chairs? Tell me that! It says clearly that the smaller number is less than the bigger number, in fact it goes as far as to say it is a true statement. So less chairs could easily be a true statement!

Interestingly (to somebody I’m sure) even though armed with the knowledge of the correct word to choose I haven’t been able to retrain my brain to use it. But what I have managed to retrain my brain to do is not use either word. I have discovered a life where there “aren’t as many” of anything. There aren’t as many people in the pub some days, there aren’t as many chairs available and there aren’t as many crisps in a packet anymore! So there!

P.S There aren’t as many words in this blog post as I usually write, there is only a certain amount of time you can devote to such things and keep people’s interest.



Blogger, Writer, Reviewer & Serial Hobbyist

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