Use of fewer and less

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gasoria

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Hello eveybody,
My name is Guillermo an my native language is Spanish.
As I was answering one of the quizzes, I had wrong the one below:
11: There were ..... cars on the road when I was a child
I used less instead of fewer but I do not know why it should be fewer. Could somebody explain to me this please?.
 

billmcd

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"Fewer" for countable nouns and "less" for non-countable nouns, e.g. air, water, information etc.
 

Raymott

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There were ..... cars on the road when I was a child

What you say is true, but, are you saying that "cars" are countable? For example, "I saw cars yesterday. Only blue cars are allowed in the race. Cars are my favorite hobby."

I thought "fewer" was the best choice because there was a comparison between when the writer was a child and the present.
Isn't 'less' as comparative as 'fewer'?
I agree with billmcd.

To gasoria:
The truth is that even some very popular authors, eg. John Grisham, uses 'less' when he means 'fewer'. Perhaps the distinction has been lost in parts of America?

It's very common to see "less than 20 people" or, in shops, "Less than 5 items at this counter", but some of us still try to make the distinction, and you should too, at least in exams.
 

billmcd

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To Raymott:

Yes, exactly, and I was going to use the same example you presented about check-out lanes in shops and supermarkets. Unfortunately, as I have posted previously, popular usage rules and correctness suffers.
 

Tdol

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The truth is that even some very popular authors, eg. John Grisham, uses 'less' when he means 'fewer'. Perhaps the distinction has been lost in parts of America?

And not only in America- less + plural is very common in the UK too. I think the less/fewer distinction will end up on the list of niceties and preferences recommended for formal usage rather than held to be a rule as it's so widely ignored.

And our supermarkets have similar signs.
 
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