Your current account balance is $X smaller/less than is required

I have read that when we are talking about amount we say small amount. So in my case what word would be right to use?

  • 3
    Putting aside the less than/fewer than distinction beloved of pedants everywhere, less/more are "generic" comparators naturally fitting just about any quantity/degree context. But bigger/smaller are fundamentally rooted in physical size, so any usage outside that context is to some extent metaphoric. In practice, the bank manager would invariably use less than in OP's example. Oct 26, 2012 at 14:52
  • Thank you. May I also double check about "than is required" part? Is it correct to use it without "it" subject? And whether "is" could be safely omitted?
    – Cindy
    Oct 26, 2012 at 15:18
  • You can "safely" omit the second "is", but for reasons I can't easily explain, it's probably better to keep it in this particular context. Even more so if the complete sentence had been something like "Your average balance over the past three months was £200 less than is required". In that case you couldn't just say the missing second "is" was a redundant echoing of the first one, because the first one would be "was" - a different verb tense. But even there, I'd say you could still drop it if you really wanted to. Oct 26, 2012 at 17:33
  • ...having said all that, you might find this earlier question useful regarding “Lower number” vs. “smaller number”. You'll see there that some people think numbers should be lower/higher, not smaller/bigger. Most people (particularly in informal contexts) ignore that "rule", but you'd normally expect account managers/bankers to adopt the more "formal" choices. So they'd naturally avoid "smaller" here. Oct 26, 2012 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


Your current account balance is $X smaller/less than is required

It is possible, at least hypothetically, for a "balance" to be negative. A large negative balance is certainly not smaller than a small positive balance, but it is less, by the accepted meaning of the word.

To say that one amount is smaller than another is, strictly speaking, to preclude the possibility of its being negative, or otherwise to assume that one is speaking of non-negative amounts. The word "balance" implies an amount that could, at least hypothetically, be positive, negative, or zero---as balances tend to be explicitly signed quantities, debit or credit in some sense---and therefore to me it does not seem appropriate to say that one "balance" is smaller than another unless one is speaking in terms of absolute value, but even this would not usually be inferred on its own without explicitly making the situation clear.

For example, if A's balance is -$5.00 and B's balance is -$3.00, then both of the following would be true:

A's balance is less than B's.
B has a smaller negative balance than A.

In the original example, without further context, I would only use less than.


The phrase less than is a mathematical phrase that requires an expression on both the left and right side.

Your current account balance of $99.99 is less than the required amount.

Your current account balance of $99.99 is less than $1000.00.

The word smaller denotes size and could be used as an indicator.

Your current account balance of $99.99 is too small.

Numeric values can represent size, but money is not a measurement of size. Money is best used to measure budgets, balances and other financial information.

A numeric example that works well with small as a logical comparison.

The length of 12 inches is smaller then 3 feet.

Where as, using less than is not as informative.

The length of 12 inches is less than 3 feet.

Mathematically that is not true, 12 is greater than 3. So small works better since it refers to size.

  • Your last point would be fine if the units were the same. 12 may be greater than 3, but 12 inches is less than 3 feet.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 26, 2012 at 20:45
  • Money is not a measurement of size? What about big bucks and small change?
    – bib
    Oct 26, 2012 at 21:17
  • @AndrewLeach my example was to illustrate the conflict between the numeric values being the opposite of the words "less than". Since 12 is greater then 3, but 12 inches is less then 3 feet. So it's better to say 12 inches is smaller then 3 feet, since a measurement of size is being stated.
    – Reactgular
    Oct 26, 2012 at 21:26
  • @brid "big bucks" is a phrase, where as I was referring to the numeric representation of money as $##.##, and that is a numeric value of currency. Not a numeric value of measurement. For example, 12" denotes inches. You can say things like "12 inches bigger or 12 inches longer", but "100 dollars bigger" or "100 dollars longer" isn't correct.
    – Reactgular
    Oct 26, 2012 at 21:29
  • Thank you all for your opinions, they have been very useful
    – Cindy
    Nov 1, 2012 at 10:56

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