It doesn't look good to use \u2018less\u2019 when you should be using \u2018fewer\u2019. For example, where once the checkout signs at a popular supermarket read \u2018Ten items or less\u2019, after multiple complaints from grammar purists, the signs have been changed to say \u2018Up to ten items\u2019.\n\nIt is considered a bit informal to use \u2018less\u2019 when you should use \u2018fewer\u2019. And since the rule concerning how these terms are used is fairly simply, it is easy to avoid this error.\nFewer\nThe word \u2018fewer\u2019 is a comparative used to mean \u2018a smaller number of\u2019. You should use fewer if you are discussing things or people which can be counted individually, as in the sentences:\nFewer students are now choosing to study grammar.\nThere are fewer than forty Amur leopards left in the wild.\nBoth \u2018students\u2019 and \u2018leopards\u2019 are plurals, but each is also a countable noun (i.e. you could count each individual separately). Consequently, 'fewer' is the correct term to employ here.\nLess\nThe word \u2018less\u2019 is also a comparative, but it means \u2018a smaller quantity of\u2019. It should therefore be used when referring to something which can be quantified but not counted.\n\nWater is a good example, as a large amount of water cannot be divided into individual 'waters'. Rather, 'water' is treated as an undifferentiated whole. As such, we could use 'less' in a sentence like this:\nThere is less water in that bucket than in the Atlantic Ocean.\n\nThe Exceptions\nThe most important exceptions to the rules set out above are measurements of time, distance, weight or volume. This is because, although technically countable (e.g. a distance of 'five miles' is five times one mile), measurements are treated as single, undifferentiated wholes.\n\nFor example, since 'five years' is treated as a single period of time, the correct term for describing a shorter period of time is 'less':\nShe lived in Italy for less than five years. - Correct\nShe lived in Italy for fewer than five years. - Incorrect\nAnother example is money: we could say we have 'fewer than five pound coins' in our wallet since pound coins are individual things, but we'd say 'less than five pounds' if referring to the value of the money as a single amount.\n\nA simple way to think about it is that 'fewer' means \u2018not as many\u2019, whereas 'less' means \u2018not as much\u2019.\n\nIf you would like help with your writing, or to have your work checked for mistakes, get in touch with Proofread My Essay today!