Style matters #3: Where did ‘fewer’ get to?


We’d always been taught that decreasing numbers of things that could be counted – such as objects or people – were fewer in number, while falling volumes – such as quantities of milk or beer – were less as they declined.

So, if you had fewer bottles of milk delivered, you would have less milk to drink.

Sadly, it appears this distinction is dying in common usage because you increasingly hear, even on the ABC, “less bottles of beer” or “less people in the crowd”.

For those of us schooled the old-fashioned way, this is cringe territory. At least the Oxford Dictionary folk still stick by the original distinction.


If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

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