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  1. Jenniferhu's Avatar
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    #1

    fewer or less

    Hi teachers,

    I know I can find similar threads to this, and I have read one recently. I do NOT wish to waste your time for it. But I'm still a little confused.

    Two lines in an episode of Switch at Birth:

    - What makes you think that she's going to let you?
    - I'm going to give her double the values for her shares. And it'll be worth it to give her one less reason to visit us.

    Could we use "fewer" here? Is it just out of habbit or by some grammatical rule that "less" is used here?

    Thanks.

    Jennifer

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    #2

    Re: fewer or less

    'Fewer' would be correct in that sentence, but it sounds a bit pedantic.

    In informal conversation most native speakers would say '. . .one less reason to visit us'.

    Rover

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    #3

    Re: fewer or less

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenniferhu View Post
    And it'll be worth it to give her one less reason to visit us.

    Could we use "fewer" here? Is it just out of habbit or by some grammatical rule that "less" is used here?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello:

    (1) A few years ago, I read this sentence in a British book: "He ought to have one fewer bowl of rice each day."

    (a) Of course, I immediately ran to my books, for it had sounded strange to me.

    (2) Webster's Dictionary of English Usage says:

    "And of course [my emphasis] it follows one:

    ... one less scholarship.

    One less reporter."

    (a) I guess, then, that the "rule" would be "common sense." That is, most native speakers simply feel that "one fewer"

    sounds weird -- no matter what the rules in the grammar books say.

    (i) But sometimes native speakers are "wrong." People who love English are often upset when they go to the supermarket and

    see a sign that tells them a particular checkout line is for people with "10 items or less."

    (3) One Web expert told me in 2011 that sometimes rearranging the sentence might be helpful. That is, maybe most Americans

    would find "one fewer reason to visit" as weird, but maybe they would be more willing to accept "one reason fewer to visit."

    (4) Maybe the bottom line is:

    (a) Quite possibly, "one fewer reason" is "correct."

    (b) It would take a very courageous and self-confident person to actually say or write it, though.

    (c) The idiomatic way (the way that most native speakers use) would surely be "one less reason."

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: fewer or less

    In my opinion, 'one less reason' is correct; 'one fewer reason' is not.

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    #5

    Re: fewer or less

    Great question. I would be inclined to use "one less" especially with "one" even though a violation of the count/non-count rule. The following is from thatdanny.com:

    Survey Source “one fewer” / “one less”
    BBC 5% / 95%
    Times 23% / 77%
    The Sun 24% / 75%
    New York Times 26% / 74%
    Telegraph 15% / 85%
    Guardian 15% / 85%
    Google News 18% / 82%
    Overall 18% / 82%
    Last edited by billmcd; 01-May-2012 at 14:52.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: fewer or less

    Quote Originally Posted by billmcd View Post
    Great question. I would be inclined to use "one less" especially with "one" even though a violation of the count/non-count rule.
    Interetsting statistics. Thanks for finding them.

    I don't think it's even a violation of any count/non-count rule. The noun 'reason may be a count noun, but the form 'reason' is not plural. We can't have 'one reasons', so I don't think we can have 'one less reasons'. Still, it doesn't matter.

    I liked the conclusion of the article you quoted from: “One less” wins. Overwhelmingly. If it was ever a rule then its time is up.

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