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Session 53

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

Activity 1

Less vs fewer

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Sam's going to share the secrets of less vs fewer! Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

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Hi, I'm Sam from BBC Learning English and today we're going to look at the difference between less and fewer when comparing things.

It's actually very simple. We use fewer with countable nouns and less with uncountable nouns. But even native speakers get this wrong, so let's have a look at some examples.

I moved recently, and comparing my old area to my new neighbourhood, I can say:

There are fewer restaurants and fewer cafes and there is less traffic and less pollution.

Cafes and restaurants are countable nouns. You can count them on your fingers and you can make them plural, so we use fewer.

Pollution and traffic are uncountable nouns. You can't count them on your fingers and you can't make them plural, so we use less.


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Less vs fewer

and fewer are quantifiers. Less is the comparative form of 'little' and fewer is the comparative form of 'few'.

  • We have less milk than I'd hoped.
  • There are fewer people than I expected.

We use less with uncountable nouns, such as: pollution, traffic, news and freedom. 

  • There is less traffic and less pollution.
  • We've been receiving a lot less news since we switched TV providers.
  • In more conservative societies, women have less freedom than they do here.

We use fewer with countable nouns, such as: restaurants, cafes, people and bags.

  • There are fewer restaurants and fewer cafes.
  • Fewer people came to the opening than we had expected so there's more food for everyone!
  • I'm sorry, Sir. But you need to take fewer bags on the plane. Can we put one in the hold?


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