Drive-Thru Edits: fewer or less?

Use the word fewer if you can count something:

  • She said her apartment was infested, but the exterminators counted fewer than seven ants in the entire complex.
  • I got fewer cookies than you did.
  • You are drinking fewer glasses of wine at dinner than you used to.

Use less if you cannot count something:

  • You are drinking less wine than usual.
  • It looks like there’s less snow on the mountain this year.

However, nothing is ever that simple. So …

Even though you can count up all the money, coins and bills, in my purse, the $5 total is considered a bulk amount in this sentence:

  • I have less than $5 in my purse.

Unlike:

  • I think I have fewer than five quarters in my purse for the parking meter. (I’m talking about each individual quarter.)

When indicating a span of time rather than the individual number of years or individual minutes, use less:

  • I graduated college in less than four years.
  • She completed the exam in less than 30 minutes.

Same with distance:

  • The office is less than five miles away.

And weight:

  • The lamb weighs less than 100 pounds.

Write on.

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