LESS (noun) "a smaller amount or quantity":

Hundreds of soldiers arrived, but less of them remained.


What would be the correct agreement for the verb remain in the following two sentences then?

  1. Hundreds of soldiers arrive every day, but less of them remain(s).

  2. Hundreds of soldiers arrive every day, but less remain(s).

  • 3
    Just a note, you should use fewer when describing something countable (like soldiers), and less when describing something uncountable (like a liquid). You might have fewer soldiers or less water, but not less soldiers or fewer water. – Nuclear Hoagie Nov 9 '20 at 17:30
  • In this context few remain. There are many duplicates about less/fewer but I can't find one with less/few. "Hundreds of soldiers arrived, but few remain." – Weather Vane Nov 9 '20 at 17:31
  • 2
    @WeatherVane: But fewer than hundreds of soldiers might still be many, not few. There is nothing wrong with fewer here. – Peter Shor Nov 9 '20 at 17:33
  • @PeterShor true: how many remain is relevant. If 99 remain, they are not 'few', but if 3 remain they are. It's an option. – Weather Vane Nov 9 '20 at 17:34
  • 1
    @GJC: I certainly can't explain it. Usually I'm pretty good at guessing in advance what NGrams is going to tell me. But I'd have taken it for granted that over the past century or two, fewer would be a massively declining usage compared to less in just about all contexts. But it turns out that although less is still much more common overall, it's actually losing traction compared to fewer. The only explanation I can think of is there must be a lot of people these days paying attention in English classes because they're worried people will think they speak badly! – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '20 at 19:01

In general "less" is singular and "few" is plural. This is because "less" is used uncountably and "few" is used countably.


Less is more (singular)

Fewer are expected for the meeting during Covid restrictions. (plural)


Hundreds of soldiers arrive every day, but fewer remain. (plural)

  • According to Garner's , Less for singular nouns or units of measure: less tonic water, one less golfer, less than six ounces of epoxy books.google.es/… – GJC Nov 9 '20 at 19:21

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