less

fewer, less
As a general guide, fewer is used with plural nouns (fewer books, fewer people) and indicates number, whereas less is used with singular nouns and indicates amount (less money / less happiness). However, there is an extensive no man's land between these two positions. To begin with, less can be used idiomatically with than followed by plural nouns when these denote something closer to an amount than a numerical quantity, as with distances, periods of time, ages, and sums of money: less than 5 miles to go / less than six weeks / children less than three years old / less than £100. Supermarket checkouts are correct when the signs they display read 5 items or less (which refers to a total amount), and are misguidedly pedantic when they read 5 items or fewer (which emphasizes individuality, surely not the intention). Examiners often invite candidates to write a summary of a passage of prose in fifty words or less. In some borderline cases it is more idiomatic to use less when fewer would put an unwelcome emphasis on the numerical quantity rather than the cumulative effect of the total:…

• unashamedly rejoiced in having had in his house at one time no less than five Nobel Prize Winners —Margaret Drabble, 1987.

But less should be avoided when it comes before an otherwise unqualified plural noun:

• ☒ I shall care about less things —Penelope Fitzgerald, 1980

• ☒There is not enough money being spent on rehabilitation and, if we spend more, we could save a lot of money with less people reoffending —Bury Free Press, 2007.

See also less 3.
————————
less
1. For less and fewer, see fewer.
2. For much less, see much more, much less.
3. less and lesser.
Less is a comparative form of little, and is used with singular mass nouns to mean the opposite of more: less butter / less noise. It cannot be used with plural nouns (in which case fewer is used), nor with a preceding a or an (in which case an alternative such as lower or smaller is used: I want to pay less rent but I want to pay a lower rent) Less, however, and not fewer is idiomatic after one in a phrase such as one less thing to worry about. Lesser is a so-called double comparative and means ‘not so great (i.e. important or significant) as the other or others’; it is preceded by a or the (a lesser man than him / the lesser evil). It is not used to refer to physical size or number; in these cases use smaller, lower, etc.: (a smaller car / a lower price).

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • less — less·est; less·ness; let·ter·less; li·cense·less; lid·less; life·less; life·less·ly; life·less·ness; light·less; light·less·ness; limb·less; lime·less; lim·it·less; line·less; lint·less; lip·less; list·less; list·less·ly; list·less·ness;… …   English syllables

  • less — [ les ] function word *** Less is the comparative form of the function word little and can be used in the following ways: as a determiner (before a noun): Eat less fat. Schools put less emphasis on being creative. as a pronoun: Connie did less… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Less — Less, X Terminal Basisdaten Entwickler: Mark Nudelman Aktuelle Version: 429 (11. April 2009) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • less — Less, X Terminal Basisdaten Entwickler Mark Nudelman Aktuelle Version 4 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • less — Fichier log de la commnande emerge de gentoo affiché par less dans un terminal xfce …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Less — est une commande Unix permettant de visualiser un fichier texte page par page (sans le modifier). Sa fonction est similaire à la commande more, mais permet en plus de revenir en arrière ou de rechercher une chaîne. Contrairement à vi (qui permet… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Less — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda less Captura de less en un terminal X. Desarrollador Mark Nudelman …   Wikipedia Español

  • Less — Вывод less в X Терминал Тип Системная утилита Разработчик Mark Nudelman ОС …   Википедия

  • less — [les] adj. [ME les < OE læs, adv. læssa, adj. (used as compar. of lytel, LITTLE), akin to OFris les < IE * leis < base * lei , to diminish, meager, > LITTLE] 1. alt. compar. of LITTLE 2. not so much; smaller in size or amount [to… …   English World dictionary

  • less — Captura de less en un terminal X. Desarrollador Mark Nudelman [1] …   Wikipedia Español

  • Less — Less, a. [OE. lesse, AS. l[=ae]ssa; akin to OFries. l[=e]ssa; a compar. from a lost positive form. Cf. {Lesser}, {Lest}, {Least}. Less has the sense of the comparative degree of little.] Smaller; not so large or great; not so much; shorter;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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