Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Less vs. Fewer

Okay, people. I'm tired of this. You can talk about how much of something there is, or you can talk about how many of something there are, but you can't mix the terms.

Less refers to a decrease (either qualitative or quantitative) of a singular collective. I feel less happy. There is less pollution. I ate less than normal.

Fewer refers to a decrease in the quantifiable members of a set. We have fewer employees. I ate fewer calories than normal. I have received fewer emails since the server crashed.

I just sat through a two hour meeting to which the words whom and fewer were apparently not invited. I really like this language, and while I may not always be its best advocate I certainly find some of its misuses to be grating.

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