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Adjective [a compar. of] little [with] least [as superl.]

  1. fewer: less than a dozen.

https://www.wordreference.com/definition/less

A dozen is semantically plural ("twelve") yet it is grammatically singular, so which form is correct fewer/less than a dozen?

Secondly, what about Fewer/less than a dozen people?

Determiner (preceded by a or a numeral):

a.) (a group of) twelve: two dozen oranges.

b.) (as pronoun; functioning as sing or plural) There are at least a dozen who haven't arrived yet.

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/dozen

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  • A dozen means twelve; so we say fewer. Oct 27 '20 at 10:12
  • @MichaelHarvey Counterargument: forum.wordreference.com/threads/…
    – GJC
    Oct 27 '20 at 10:34
  • We can count to one, so if you’re going purely by whether the term is countable, use “fewer”. Just be aware that generic usage of fewer/less is somewhat more malleable.
    – Lawrence
    Oct 27 '20 at 10:56
  • The fewer/less distinction is much less enforced than before, and descriptive grammarians point out that this rule does not correctly describe the most common usage of today or the past and in fact arose as an incorrect generalization of a personal preference expressed by a grammarian in 1770. Oct 27 '20 at 11:06
  • My sense of usage suggests that as with so many other distinctions, that between 'less' and 'fewer' is wearing out, if it hasn't already done so.
    – Tuffy
    Oct 27 '20 at 11:43
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"A Dozen" literally means "12". They are interchangeable in every context, even if it sound odd for phrases we are used to. The movie, "The Dirty 12"? "Ocean's Dozen"?

12 is a counting number, an integer. Fewer than 12. Fewer than a dozen. To be precisely correct. Even so, there will be time 'less than' sounds ok. "I'm less than a dozen miles from home, please turn the lights on."

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  • Half [a] twelve eggs / mince pies / sausages. Nov 26 '20 at 16:14
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A dozen is either 12 items seen individually, or a group of twelve items seen as one unit.

Which interpretation you intend

Fewer/less than a dozen people?

will dictate whether you use "fewer" or "less"

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  • What part of speech would be used in each of the four possible combinations Fewer/less than a dozen (people)?
    – GJC
    Oct 27 '20 at 15:50
  • In the specimen answer at the duplicate (why do people ignore site policy on these things?), CGEL licenses 'ii. Less/Fewer than thirty of the students had voted.' This shows that Pullum etc consider the use of 'less' a valid alternative to 'fewer' in at least some examples involving pure count usages. Oct 27 '20 at 16:01
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    Pullum's opinion is his opinion. CGEL and other publications quoted here from time to time appear to be actively pushing the English language in a certain direction (rather than merely acknowledging a drift). My opinion is that that's not a good thing.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 27 '20 at 21:24
  • @Andrew Leach Yes, I only cite the CGEL party when I agree. admittedly, and I've banked your comment. However, C S Lewis spoke on non-patterning rules hereabouts ('more than one person was hurt in the crash'), and surely no one says 'That's one fewer problem' nowadays. Nov 26 '20 at 16:08
  • @Andrew Leach Yes, I only cite the CGEL party when I agree, admittedly, and I've banked your comment, as I also agree with that. However, C S Lewis spoke on non-patterning rules hereabouts ('more than one person was hurt in the crash'), and surely no one says 'That's one fewer problem' nowadays. I'd also expect to hear 'Less than thirty of the students had voted' more often than 'Fewer than thirty of the students had voted'. Nov 26 '20 at 16:17

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