Do you sometimes get a sense that your sentence is not quite right, even though you can’t exactly say why?
If you do, then you wouldn’t be alone. Using the terms less and fewer is one issue that causes this sense of unease and uncertainty.
For instance, a lot of people would pick up that the following sentence doesn’t sound quite right but can’t put their finger on the reason why.
Why don’t we write less blogs when we have fewer things to write about?
It’s all to do with using the terms less and fewer correctly.
Both terms mean the same thing. They are the opposite of more, and mean less than. Correctly applying the terms can be tricky, though.
The key thing to remember is that if you are referring to objects or things that you can count (plural nouns) such as dogs, wheels, sweets, doors, etc., then you use ‘fewer’. If the object is something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural, such as time, money, mud, homework, evidence, insurance, jewellery, etc., then use ‘less’.
So, the bicycle has fewer wheels than the car.
The children have fewer sweets than the greedy clown.
But, the bicycle has less wind resistance than the car.
The children have less appetite than the greedy clown (factually doubtful but the sentence serves its purpose well).
So, if in doubt, get your abacus out and work out whether you can count the objects you are writing about.
And remember, fewer always counts.