2

Since 'few' is used for countable things and 'Less' is for uncountable things then why do we say;

I have less than 2 days/months/years.

?

Yes, time is an uncountable concept but we sure can count days, years, and months...

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    When actual days are meant, say "fewer than two days," and when a time span is meant, say "less than two days." HTH. – Kris Feb 20 at 10:12
  • Sure, but one hears sentences like 'We have less than a month before the meeting.' So, in theory, they do mean the remaning days, not the time span. Has the miss usage become normalised over time? – Özgür Akyıldız Feb 20 at 10:18
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    No misuse at all. "Less than a month" is a part of month, not number of days, so not countable. – Kris Feb 20 at 10:20
3

The phrase two days as in "two days left" can refer to a block of time, that is, to an amount of time remaining, rather than to the number of discrete individual days remaining, to their count.

We use few in situations where the number is relevant, and less in situations where the amount of something is remaining.

The semantics of the situation govern here.

Compare:

Give the child less mashed potatoes than you've given me.

Even though the noun "potatoes" is countable, in this context, semantically the reference is to a serving of the food, an amount, not a count.

  • well, sure potatoes are countable, but not mashed potatoes... – Özgür Akyıldız Feb 20 at 10:24
  • But the overwhelming majority of native speakers say "mashed potatoes". But the point is, despite the countability of potatoes, the semantics of the situation govern here. – TRomano Feb 20 at 10:25
  • well, I assume that is because one often mashes a bunch of potatoes. :) – Özgür Akyıldız Feb 20 at 10:26
  • The reference is to a serving, an amount, not a number: Please give me less peas than you gave Özgür. – TRomano Feb 20 at 10:27
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    Yes. That's the beauty of language. It reveals thought. It is expressive. But we cannot say He will be visiting for fewer than a week. Plural units like seconds, minutes, days, months can express an amount of time, but singular units cannot be cast into the units they comprise. – TRomano Feb 20 at 10:34
2

TRomano's answer (and comments) explains everything quite correctly; however, we can also say in a few days' time as in

I'm going to have an exam in a few days' time

and in the following

May I ask a few questions?

substituting few with less would be incorrect. In this instance, "a few" is closer in meaning to "some".

2

As you adequately state it, the period can be considered both an uncountable chunk of time (as in the example you provide) or in relation to its individual units (hours, days). That's why

I have less than 2 days/months/years.

is correct. A similar use often occurs with money.

The new model costs less than ten pounds.

Regardless, we should also consider that for most native speakers fewer than would sound more formal than less than, which explains a higher occurence of the latter.

Ngram for 'fewer than' v 'less than'

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