26

This question is related to the previous one on less-vs-fewer. I prefer using fewer instead of less when referring to discrete items. Something sounds off about less than ten people, in my opinion.

But what about the flip side? The phrase more than ten people doesn't sound quite right either. If less and more are natural antonyms, then what word relates to more the same way fewer relates to less?

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    are you looking for "greater"? – Tim Sep 28 '10 at 22:07
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    I guess there are fewer words for "more". – user126158 Feb 9 '16 at 17:34
30

There is no distinction: less is to fewer as more is to more.

  • more water; less water
  • more dogs; less/fewer dogs
  • 10 items or more; 10 items or less/fewer
  • one more bell to answer; one less bell to answer
  • weighing 100 pounds more; weighing 100 pounds less
  • 500 words or more; 500 words or less
  • more than 10,000 miles; less than 10,000 miles
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    And if that doesn’t highlight the pointlessness of the less/fewer distinction, I don’t know what does. – Paul D. Waite Sep 28 '10 at 20:50
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    @Jason, you are welcome to believe the distinction between fewer and less dreamed up by some 18th century writer if you like, but the facts of English usage speak for themselves. You should read carefully the scholarship in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage. But given your attitude I imagine that you’ll continue on believing whatever you’ve been taught to believe, ignoring anything contradictory. – nohat Sep 29 '10 at 0:01
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    @Jason, it is only a question of which dictionary is right if you accept as a premise that dictionaries are the deciders of what is right and wrong. Instead, I, along with those who study language scientifically, say that “correct usage” is decided by users of the language, not by self-appointed arbiters of correctness. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage derives its authority from careful study of real usage, with the trappings of science—evidence. The same is not true of the stylebooks and dictionaries that disagree. That is why they are wrong—their authority is baseless. – nohat Sep 29 '10 at 1:24
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    @Jason you misunderstand. It is not decided by what people say, such as usage writers or English teachers, but by what people do, by doing real analysis of large corpora of texts. – nohat Sep 29 '10 at 3:02
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    @slim you should send Hal David a firmly worded letter then en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Less_Bell_to_Answer – nohat Dec 21 '11 at 22:16
5

less is to fewer as greater is to more

  • Surely, "less is to fewer as more is to greater"? Even so, I can't buy this. "There are greater apples in this bowl than in the other"? Nope. Perhaps "There is a greater number of apples in this bowl than in the other"? But what an awkward construction. – jameshfisher Sep 16 '17 at 9:44
3

My opinion is that, in principle, 'less' relates to uncountable nouns and 'fewer' relates to countable nouns. However, the concept in the mind of the speaker has an influence. We can say 'less than a thousand miles' because the concept in the mind of the speaker, is distance, which is not countable. Similarly, bridge players often assess the strenth of their hand by points but it does not offend me to hear 'I had less than ten points' because the concept in the mind of the speaker is strength, not points.

  • Good answer, but I think your second point needs tidying up. The 'concept in the mind of the speaker' must be the same as the concept expressed (if you are using language properly), and you could only travel ?fewer than a thousand miles if you had seven-league boots, or some other contrivance that cannot go a smaller distance than a mile. – TimLymington Jul 1 '12 at 23:19
0

As nohat pointed out, the distinction does not exist for more. As far as I understand it, it could be said "'less' is to 'fewer' as 'much' is to 'many'" though.

0

We do say "less than, greater than" but other than adding "even" we don't really change "more" to fit the noun. "We have even more people here today than yesterday" or "We have a greater number of people here today than yesterday." Those are both comparisons. If you didn't want to compare and if you didn't want to use "more" then you could potentially say "We have a great number of people." That one could be confusing though because it could be any number that your personal opinion deems as great, rather than "great" meaning a large number, so in that case it might be better to say "We have a lot of people" or "We have many people..."

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I thought you can use "less" into things that cant be measured like water. Ex: Less water. And "fewer" for things that can be counted. Ex: Fewer people.

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    This is a question and answer page, not a discussion page. Your answer is expected to answer to the question at the top – in this case, 'less' is to 'fewer' as 'more' is to what? Personal opinions, speculation, anecdotes, and general discussion are welcome in English Language & Usage Chat. – MetaEd Sep 20 '17 at 15:47

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