Fewer Things, Less Stuff

February 20, 2008, an AOL article headline says that You’ll Notice Less Lines Around Eyes With This: 10 best anti-aging products

Lines are countable things, and with countable things, use fewer, not less. With things that are not countable, such as emotions and things that are measured in bulk or total amount, use less. This headline should’ve read You’ll Notice Fewer Lines Around Eyes With This.

We have fewer stressful situations but less stress. (Stressful situations are countable, but stress is an emotion, so it is not countable.) We have fewer dollar bills, but we have less than five dollars. (Dollar bills are countable, but five dollars is a total amount, so it is not countable.) We have fewer minutes to wait for the train than for the bus, but we have less than 15 minutes to wait for each. (Minutes are countable things, but 15 minutes is a single total amount, so it is not countable.) We have fewer reasons to have lines around our eyes, but we’re applying less reason to our focus on such superficial matters. (Reasons are countable things, but reason is not.)

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever  

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