WordPlay

Less vs. Fewer: A closer look

In Good Grammer: Them's the Rules on May 27, 2014 at 1:34 am

In a previous article, WordPlay made clear a simple distinction between the words “less” and “fewer:”

“Less,” as a descriptive adjective, pertains to amounts. “Fewer” pertains to numbers.

Examples: “There is less gin in the bottle than there was last night.” “There are fewer tar balls on the beach this year.”

A basic understanding of this principle is quite sufficient–most of the time. What is one to do to do, however, with a dilemma like the following?

A. We have less than two hours.

-vs.-

B.

We have fewer than two hours.

Two hours, certainly, is a matter of numbers, not amounts. Or is it?

Actually, neither A nor B is the correct answer. Either C or D, below, are grammatically acceptable:

C. We have less than two hours’ time.

D. We have less time than two hours.

-I.M.K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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