I am looking for an idiom or a phrase that expresses the opposite idea of "the more the merrier".


Five persons are taking a class in gymnastics with a private coach. Only two show up for the training session. Person A: "Hey, [the opposite of "the more the merrier"!"

The intended meaning is the two persons will receive more attention and useful advice from the coach, so the session stands a good chance of being more productive.

Ideally, the idiom should be usable in the example sentence above.

Note: I'm aware of "less is more", but I've heard it in the context of minimalism, and it doesn't sound like a good candidate here (correct me if I'm wrong.)

EDIT: "The more the merrier" is actually abbreviated. Originally it was "the more the merrier; the fewer, the better fare", where "fare" means food. One could of course simply say "the fewer the better", but I'd like something more colorful, if possible. And "the fewer, the better fare" sounds a bit opaque (again, correct me if I'm wrong.)

  • 3
    The fewer the better fare books.google.fr/…
    – Elian
    Nov 18, 2015 at 8:39
  • Thanks, I thought of that, but I was hoping for something more colorful than "the fewer the better", and something less opaque than "the fewer the better fare"
    – A.P.
    Nov 18, 2015 at 9:00
  • "fare" can actually be used by extension...
    – Elian
    Nov 18, 2015 at 9:02
  • fare: something offered to the public, as for entertainment: literary fare; Archaic. the state of things.
    – Elian
    Nov 18, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    I suggest you create your own idiom, specific to the scene in the gym. Use words like jump, sprint/ bump, splint (fewer jumping, less bumping). Play with it.
    – Alien
    Nov 18, 2015 at 11:56

3 Answers 3


As per my comment above, consider the fewer, the better fare.

The More The Merrier The larger the number involved, the better the occasion. For example, John's invited all his family to come along, and why not? The more the merrier. This expression was first recorded in 1530, when it was put as “The more the merrier; the fewer, the better fare” (meaning “with fewer there would be more to eat”), an observation that made its way into numerous proverb collections.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary


Two is a company three is a crowd may suggest the idea:

  • said when two ​people are ​relaxed and ​enjoying each other's ​company but another ​person would make them ​feel less ​comfortable

you could use also the following, making it sound less serious:

better be alone than in bad company:

  • It is better to be called a loner than to be labeled as a bad person. It is better off to be without any friends than to have friends with a bad character. You are known by the company you keep. So we must be careful while choosing our friends.

There is an interesting Italian proverb that says :

"the best wine is always in the small barrel" that suggests that the best things are found or done in small entities or but few people.

  • 1
    Thank you, I haven't considered "crowd" and related words or expressions. That said, isn't "three is a crowd" synonymous with "fifth wheel"?
    – A.P.
    Nov 18, 2015 at 9:06
  • @A.P. - Yes, but the saying is also used when you want to suggest that there are too many, more than necessary, people in a given context, not only in a romantic one.
    – user66974
    Nov 18, 2015 at 9:54
  • There seems to be not many expressions for the question. I think your answer is good.
    – user140086
    Nov 18, 2015 at 18:13

Too many cooks spoil the broth

Too many persons involved in managing an activity can ruin it


  • 1
    Yes, thank you, but I think this would work if, instead of one, three coaches showed up :) This proverb is about managing, not participation, no?
    – A.P.
    Nov 18, 2015 at 10:07
  • 2
    Ah if 3 coaches showed up I think that would be "too many chiefs, not enough Indians"
    – Enilorac
    Nov 18, 2015 at 10:19

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