Fewer or Less? Which Should It Be?

Do you have as much trouble as I do remembering when to use fewer and when to use less in a sentence? Those two little words cause me a lot more bother than they should.

I do know the rule that says generally we should use fewer with countable items (Skim milk has fewer calories than whole milk) and use less with general or quantity amounts (We had less milk left than I thought). But I always have to stop and think before I write or speak either word.

I’m not the only one to have trouble with fewer and less. I’ve noticed that TV anchors, writers of radio and television commercials, and government spokespersons tend to mix them up, too. So I’m in good company.

Today I picked up a tip from Spark Notes that should help me quickly decide when to use fewer and when to use less. Spark Notes posted this easy way to remember, plus some example sentences:

“If you can’t count it, use less.
If you can count it, use fewer.

• Cain has less love in his heart than anyone else I know.

• Cain gives fewer hugs than anyone else I know.

You can’t count love, but you can count hugs.”

Now that I can remember.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

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