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Important notice

Good news! We have updated our writing tools. Writing Tips and The Canadian Style have been combined to create a new tool called Writing Tips Plus.

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To begin your search, go to the alphabetical index below and click on the first letter of the word you are searching for.

fewer, less, lesser

Fewer indicates plural number and is used with plural nouns.

  • The Department of National Defence has bought fewer computers this year than last.
  • Greater emphasis on health issues means that there are fewer people eating candy.
  • The program benefits families with four or fewer children.
  • Students must answer no fewer than 12 questions on the exam paper.

Less and lesser indicate a singular amount and are used with singular nouns (which are often uncountable).

  • There will be one less participant in this competition.
  • You will be assigned less work this week.
  • Henk had even less money than I did in our student days.
  • Granny used to joke that growing old was the lesser of two evils.
  • I do enjoy cycling, but to a lesser degree than running.

Less is also used with plural measurements of distance, money, time, etc., which express overall amounts that are usually considered singular:

  • Five kilometres is less than the distance I walked.
  • Jean had less than $40 for groceries, so Carl lent her some money.
  • We have less than twenty minutes to get ready!
  • Can you express that in 25 words or less?

Less is also frequently used in mathematics to mean “smaller.”

  • The sum of 7 plus 4 is less than 12.