Many people believe that fewer and less are interchangeable, but that’s not the case. It’s true that both words are used to describe a smaller quantity of something, but they aren’t used in the same way.
In general, people use the word “fewer” if an item can be counted, and “less” if it can’t be counted.
So you would say:
I have fewer than ten items in my shopping cart.
I have less respect for you when you behave that way.
Items in a shopping cart can be counted. Respect can’t be counted.
Although this rule works in many situations, it is not entirely accurate because there are several exceptions to it (money, time, weight, mass quantities, and collective nouns). A better rule of thumb exists: use fewer for plural nouns and use less for singular nouns. (Think: is vs. are.)
The following examples are both grammatically correct:
I have less than $20 in my pocket.
I have fewer than twenty $1 bills in my pocket.
In example one, you can certainly count the amount of money that you have in your pocket. But because we think of $20 as a single unit (i.e., you would say “twenty dollars is a lot of money instead of twenty dollars are a lot of money), we use the word less in this situation.
In the second example, the term “dollar bills” is a plural noun. In other words, you would say, “dollar bills are green,” instead of “dollar bills is green.” Because of this, you use the word fewer in this situation.
If you have any grammar questions, please let me know in the comments below!
This is a very rough draft to the prologue of something I’ve been working on…
Death is a mere technicality. At least for Sam. When you are immortal and can travel between alternate realities, death doesn’t mean a thing.
But this story isn’t about Sam. Sam is simply one of the Keepers who can travel between these alternate realities and change things, keeping the Balance in check. The Balance is a complicated thing. Some humans are born with a destiny to accomplish, but die before they can complete the mission. This throws the universe off kilter. These souls can go back and complete the mission, but one can’t travel through time, only through alternate dimensions.
It all started when Sam was strolling through the Underworld, in the Field of the Lost Souls. A woman in her early twenties caught his eye. All she had to do was look at him—really look at him—and he knew that she was the one he was looking for.
I get teased for being a stickler about grammar, but not everyone realizes how important it can be. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
Let’s take a look at the example used in the image above:
“Let’s eat Grandpa!”
“Let’s eat, Grandpa!”
In Example 1, the speaker literally wants to eat Grandpa. Poor Grandpa! On the other hand, Example 2 indicates that the speaker wants Grandpa to join him/her for a meal. Now that’s more like it!
Remember to use your commas wisely. After all, proper grammar can save lives!
Do you have any grammar questions or concerns? Email them to me at email@example.com or leave them in a comment below!
Do you know the difference between there, their, and they’re?
In short, there is a location. Their indicates possession. And they’re is a contraction for they are.
The word “there” indicates a location. If you can substitute “here” in place of “there” and have the sentence still make sense, then you picked the right one.
How do you make sure you have the right word?
Well, if you can substitute “here” in place of “there” and have the sentence still make sense, then you picked the right one. E.g. John is over there. / John is over here.
If you can substitute “our” in place of “their” and still have the sentence make sense, then you are using the right word. E.g. Sally is going to their house. / Sally is going to our house.
And last but not least, if you can substitute “they are” in place of “they’re” and the sentence still makes sense, you picked the right one. E.g. They’re happy to join us tonight. / They are happy to join us tonight.
As a writer and an editor, I come across many people who will use the biggest word they can think of, even if it makes no sense in the context. Come on, this isn’t showing off! All it does is make you look silly.
There’s nothing wrong with big words; I like to use them whenever I can. The thing is, we sit and learn a long list of vocabulary words all through school–for spelling class, for the SATs, for various classes . . . How many of them do we actually use though? I want you to think about it, think about a news article or a blog post that is well-written and informative. What kind of language does it use? Who is its target audience?
I’ve learned that you have to write as simple as possible to reach the biggest audience. For someone who loves language and words in general, it can get depressing at times.
I think that I keep this blog somewhat simple, but I do sometimes analyze books I read. Funny story: When I was applying for jobs, I had a phone interview with a person who had read my blog. He strongly implied that I write at too high of a level for his intended audience. I suppose I should have been . . . flattered? Other than my series that analyzed Twilight, I think that I keep my writing pretty simple on this blog. I can write at a more complex level, and I can write on a simpler level. I did tell him that, but I didn’t get that job so maybe he didn’t believe me.
Also, I’d like you to keep in mind when I say I write at a simple level for my audience, it is so I can reach a wider variety of people, not because I’m implying that my readers are dumb!
Unique is an absolute, which means that it never needs to be modified. The word unique means one of a kind—and something is either one of a kind or it isn’t. So don’t say that you’re a “very unique person.” You’re a “unique person,” plain and simple.
What are your grammar questions? Ask me and I’ll try to answer them in a future blog post!