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The rules for using “less” or “ fewer” are clear (although often abused):

  • I have less money than you. (Uncountable noun)
  • I have fewer bank notes than you. (Countable noun)

Why then, is there no similar rule for “more”?

  • I have more money than you.
  • I have more bank notes than you.

Both work (I believe). Is this a modern change in English? Did there used to be another word to use for either uncountable or countable nouns? I’m trying to work out if “greater” works as the opposite of either “fewer” or “less” but it’s not a direct replacement. E.g. “I have greater bank notes than you” doesn’t work.

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  • But I think "fewer" is gradually fading away ... "I have less bank notes than you" is becoming more and more common. Ngram shows usage of "five items or less" is around double "five items or fewer".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 18:54

1 Answer 1

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More is the comparative for both much and many. So it can be correctly used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

You use more than before a number or amount to say that the actual number or amount is even greater.

  • He spent more time perfecting his dance moves instead of gym work. (amount)
  • ...a survey of more than 1,500 schools. (number) (Collins)
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  • But…why? Why is there a different comparative for less and fewer?
    – Darren
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 18:36
  • That's a very good question I think, and it should be posted separately.
    – fev
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 18:46
  • Offhand, I can tell you that Middle English had the comparative manier, but how it came to be replaced by more remains a mystery.
    – fev
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 18:54
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    Why? You ask why? Because. Things didn't happen the way you might have expected them to; occasionally they do that. English grammar is not sposta make sense or have reasons. Some of it does have known reasons, but not most and not this. Better get used to it. Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 19:33
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    There wasn't a firm difference between less and fewer until an annoying pedant in the 18th century (probably Robert Baker), unhappy that the language could have anything so messy as two different ways of saying the same thing, made up a rule that you had to use fewer with countables.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 20:22

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