Friday, July 1, 2011

Grammar Friday - Fewer vs Less

Here's your quiz question for the day:
You should invite (less, fewer) girls to the party.
In this sentence, which is correct? Less or fewer?

Does it help to think about how they do it in the grocery store? Surely we can count on the people ordering/designing/making the signs to know what's right. Right?

Ummm ...

  Actually, no, you can't count on them to know what they're doing. I see and hear less used incorrectly all the time. And I personally think the people who made that mistake with these signs--and have perpetuated the error--are training people to think less is the correct word. You hear it enough times incorrectly, your brain will reject something different, even if the different is the right way to use the word.

And who better than Delta Airlines to provide me with a prime example in a frequent flyer email I received while writing this post?

Please note that when I was in Ireland in April, their signs said fewer. The Irish get it.

So the rule? It's pretty simple.

Less is used for quantities
The amount of money in my savings account is less than it was last month.
Fewer is used for individual units, numbers
You will need to make fewer mistakes in your report.
Hint:    Less = singular
           Fewer = plural


  1. Working in a supermarket (lucky me) I knew the answer to the question. You'd be amazed by the amount of point of sale that is grammatically incorrect!

    Ellie Garratt

  2. Hi, Donna,

    I liked your post. You are so right! It boggles the mind how many americans SLAUGHTER our lovely language.
    I see mistakes all the time.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. The episode hasn't been posted yet. Check back in a few days and look under the airing date of June 30th.

    Here's a more direct link so you can find it easier.... They haven't posted this weeks shows yet.

  3. We are becoming lazy as Americans... and that goes for our use of grammar, word usage, hand-writing (I could go on) as well. Hopefully we fix that soon, but my hopes are not high.

  4. Okay, I learned a lesson *hides from the grammar scholars out there*
    Thank you!

  5. Cool. I think I've used them correctly, but not because I knew what i was doing, lol.

  6. Great post! I'm your 300th follower. :)

  7. You would think - that someone - in all the handling of those items -would have caught those mistakes!

  8. Oh I love grammar posts! Thanks for sharing :D

    Hey, so I read you comment on my blog, and I have good news! You can program "undo send" for the seconds you want... up to 30, I think? I have mine set in 5 ;)

  9. Phew I was right. I find much is disappearing in our language and I wonder if I'm like the cartoon character or whether we are losing things that are important. Here in Australia ABC Radio used to be known for it's impeccable announcers - correct word usage etc. but our fill-in morning announcer seems to overly use two words I loath ummm and ahhhh!

  10. A post about grammar. I love you already! I love grammar, really tried to make my daughter aware of it no matter what she was writing. Now in a world where people cannot spell or use proper grammar, she goes nuts if she misspells a word on a fb post. :)Looking forward to checking out your older posts. Thanks for finding me!

  11. Thank you for passing by and joining my followers, I have returned the compliament.


  12. My mom, who was a writer and editor, frequently points out these mistakes to me. At the start of your post I thought fewer would be right, but I wasn't positive. I loved the signs!

  13. Thanks for the lesson and I'm sure I make many mistakes including substituting less when fewer is correct.
    Personally I think the whole point is to get the point across and while the Irish might "get it" there are people all over our wonderful, melting pot of a country who just want to survive and get through the checkout stand in one piece. LOL

  14. Great post and good find on the signs! I've been correcting myself with the use of further vs farther lately. Sometimes incorrect grammar takes such root in one's head.

  15. Yay, I got this one right! Now if I could only figure out passed and past. Argh!!


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