I have never heard anyone use words "fewer" and "more" when talking about the fact that a certain number of items is greater than a certain number of other items by a constant.

For example if the number of pens that I have is greater than the number of pencils by 5 what is the proper way to say it without using the word "number". Is it "I have 5 more pens than pencils." And "I have 5 fewer pencils than pens." Both of these sentences sound extremely weird and I doubt they are correct, so, what is the proper way of saying these 2 sentences?

  • 3
    Weirdness aside, they are, in fact, correct.
    – Jim
    Dec 23, 2014 at 0:57
  • Less weird (at least to me): “I have five pens more than (I do) pencils”. Still not quite free of weirdness, but better. Dec 23, 2014 at 1:16
  • The pedants will tell you that "I have 5 less pencils than pens" is invalid/ungrammatical. But I'd rather say that than use fewer there. Dec 23, 2014 at 2:52

1 Answer 1


Both sentences are grammatically correct.

"I have 5 more pens than pencils."

"I have 5 fewer pencils than pens."

For the record, they sound fine to me as well as a native English speaker who regularly has to compare numbers and quantities.

Oxford dictionaries includes "fewer than 50 people" in an example of word usage.

  • "50 fewer" and "fewer than 50" are different examples though.
    – user102903
    Dec 23, 2014 at 6:35

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