A Tricky Less/Fewer Construction

The rule is (Okay, maybe I should say “the rules are.)

  • Use “less” when you’re measuring
  • Use “fewer” when you’re counting.

Warning: pay attention to the context!

This sentence looks okay, right?

Astronomers have detected less than half of the estimated 25,000 near-Earth objects thought to be 459 feet in size or greater.


“Less than half” feels correct, doesn’t it? That’s because with fractions, usually you’re measuring. But this sentence is counting asteroids, so it should say “fewer.”

When you write, be alert! Pay attention! Here’s a picture of an asteroid so you have something besides text to look at. Thanks, NASA.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.