How To Worry Less About “Less” and “Fewer”

Less and fewer are an especially confusing pair of words.  Both words have the same essential meaning—the opposite of more—but each word has a unique application.  In my experience, it seems the word less is used a lot more often than it should be.

If you are describing something that can be counted one-by-one, fewer is the correct choice.  Less is intended to describe things that cannot be counted.  Sounds tricky, right?  Here’s an easy way to determine which word to use: if you can add “one,” “two,” or any number to the word or phrase you’re describing, fewer is your choice.

Let’s consider water as an example.  One lake, two rivers, three streams—these phrases all make sense.  Lakes, rivers, and streams can all be counted one-by-one, so fewer pairs with these words.  But one water?  That doesn’t work. Therefore, less water is the way to go.

Nevada has fewer lakes than Minnesota.

I will add less water to the soup next time.

On the other hand, if you’re describing gallons of water, fewer is the correct choice, because gallons can be counted one-by-one (one gallon, two gallons, three gallons).

Here are some less phrases: less time, less money, less flour, less fear

Here are some fewer phrases: fewer seconds, fewer dollars, fewer cups of flour, fewer limitations

For those businesses seeking fewer missed connections and less stress, our grammar-savvy team of remote receptionists is an excellent solution.

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Sales Support

Already a Ruby customer?

Let’s get started.

Ready to turn more callers into customers?

Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.