EZ Grammar Guide: "Less vs. Fewer" and "Further vs. Farther"

EZ Grammar Guide: Less vs Few. EZ Grammar Guide: Further vs. Farther.

Less vs. Fewer:

The opposite of “more” is “less.” The opposite of “more” is also “few.” And while you can use the word “more” anytime, “less” and “few” are used differently.

Read these two sentences and you’ll see the problem.

- I want more ice cream and more cherries on top.

- I want less ice cream and fewer cherries on top.

You can’t say “fewer ice cream” nor should you say “less cherries.” But many people do say “I want less cherries, but more chocolate sauce.”

So what’s the rule?

FEW refers to things you can COUNT (like apples, children, houses, trees, planets)

LESS refers to a MEASURE (like water, sugar, ice cream, atmosphere, space, rain)

Recently, a teacher at a PTA meeting spoke about the benefits of having less children in a classroom. “Less” children is incorrect. She should have said fewer “children.” But she could have said correctly, fewer children make “less” noise.

Get it?

If you can count it, it’s FEW.

If you can’t count it, it’s LESS

Memory Device:

“Few Fries for Less Lard.”

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Further vs. Farther:

This error is heard everywhere. On TV, radio, in newspapers and of course, it’s heard in conversation. For some reason, these words are used interchangeably even by good speakers of English.

Further refers to figurative distance. For example, “She went further in school than I did.”

Farther refers to measurable distance. For example, “She drives farther to school than I do.”

There is a really easy way to remember this distinction so you’ll never mix up these words again.

Memory device:

The first three letters of FARTHER spell FAR, and far means distance. Use FARTHER in every case where distance is implied.  Use FURTHER in all other cases. It can’t get easier than that.

Try these. Further or Farther ?

1. _______ down the road I noticed the dark clouds of a thunderstorm.

2. Faster and _______ were the two goals of the newly designed “green” car.

3. The document _______ legitimized his claim on the property.

4. _______, if elected, I will lower taxes on the middle class.

5. We’d better discuss this _______ before proceeding.

6. He’s not that fast, but he can run _______ than anyone in the class.

Farther is correct for 1, 2 & 6. Further is the answer for 3, 4, & 5.

EZ Grammar Guide is meant to be a non-technical, easy explanation of common errors found in written English.

© 2010 EZ Grammar Guide by David Sullivan

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