Please answer each one. These seem tricky. I've numbered each one for ease in answering.
1. No less than 300 people showed up for the concert. OR No fewer than 300 people showed up for the concert?
I hear and see both.

2. Write a paragraph about an environmental issue in 200 words or fewer. OK? You can count words, so "fewer" would be correct?
I'm told that both "fewer/less than" may be used in these two:

3. No fewer/less than eight students flunked the exam.

4. No fewer/less than 30 people applied for the job.

5. In 25 words or fewer/less, please synopsize what took place.

6. fewer / less calories?
You need to eat less / fewer sweets.

7. 10 Items or Less / 10 Items or Fewer?
I see "10 Items or Less" at registers in supermarkets. Shouldn't it be "fewer"?

8. Less than five percent of the population will be affected.

Thanks so much! Emotion: smile
New Member50
Hi,

Native speakers often don't care much about the distinction between 'fewer' and 'less', particularly in casual English.

In terms of casual English, all your versions below seem fine.

Please answer each one. These seem tricky. I've numbered each one for ease in answering.

1. No less than 300 people showed up for the concert. OR No fewer than 300 people showed up for the concert?
I hear and see both.

2. Write a paragraph about an environmental issue in 200 words or fewer. OK? You can count words, so "fewer" would be correct?

I'm told that both "fewer/less than" may be used in these two:

3. No fewer/less than eight students flunked the exam.

4. No fewer/less than 30 people applied for the job.

5. In 25 words or fewer/less, please synopsize what took place.

6. fewer / less calories?

You need to eat less / fewer sweets.

7. 10 Items or Less / 10 Items or Fewer?
I see "10 Items or Less" at registers in supermarkets. Shouldn't it be "fewer"?

8. Less than five percent of the population will be affected.

Clive
Veteran Member67,701
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The rule is that you use less with mass nouns and fewer with countable nouns. Countable nouns are things that can be counted, such as people in an auditorium, or chairs in a dining hall. So, one would say, "Fewer people attended the spring concert this year than last year. We need to have fewer chairs in the dining hall so that there will be enough space to set up the buffet.

Mass nouns are things you can't count, such as a crowd. So, you would say, "There is less of a crowd this year than last." or, "Abortion is less of an issue this year than it was in the last election." (Technically, one could count a crowd, but I think you see what I mean).

So, although Clive is absolutely correct that the interchange of these two is pretty casual in the U.S., the technically correct answers to the above would be:

Technically, all would be fewer except for no. 8, and possibly the one about sweets. (It gets to the example of something like serving alcohol at a wedding. One might correctly say, "They need to serve less alcohol at these affairs because all the guests are becoming unruly." but, it would also be correct to say, "The waiter needs to serve fewer drinks to the guests because they are becoming unruly." Sweets could be either mass or countable, depending on the context. In this context, it is probably mass.

But, a number of those don't sound natural, especially the ones about writing something in X number of words or less.

Many of us have silently groaned at the grocery store about the "ten items or less" signs, which should, to be precise, be "ten items or fewer."

But, it doesn't pay in life to sweat the small stuff too much, so, unless you are completing an exercise that is evaluating your technical knowledge of English, it is probably best to just learn what the most natural usage is and go with that.
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Anonymous:
You're forgetting some important exceptions. Measurements always get less. Typical measurements include time, distance, and money, but even "words" and "people" can be measurements. The trick to tell whether something is a measurement is when it's always singular or always plural. "One word is a short paragraph" but "Five words is also a short paragraph". In this case you're not really counting words, you're using words as a unit of measurement for the size of a paragraph. For the opposite direction you can say "Sweets are bad for you", but you can't say "Sweet is bad for you." You CAN count individual sweets, but you can also use the term to refer to a generic, mass of sweets which would be measured, not counted.

The other exception is the colloquial phrase "no less than". Unless you're writing in an extremely format style, it's always "no less than" -- only use "no fewer than" if you want to sound like a stuffed shirt.

With those exceptions, they So here's my list of answers:

1. No less than 300 people showed up for the concert.
2. Write a paragraph about an environmental issue in 200 words or less.
3. No less than eight students flunked the exam.
4. No less than 30 people applied for the job.
5. In 25 words or less, please synopsize what took place. (Again, measuring length of the synopsis)
6. fewer / less calories? You need to eat less / fewer sweets. (These could both go either way, depending on context.)
7. "10 Items or Fewer" is technically correct, but "10 Items or Less" wins by preponderance of usage. As with "no fewer than", "10 Items or Fewer" has gone the way of the dodo and just sounds weird. Right or wrong, the supermarkets have set the new standard, and citing obscure grammatical theories ain't gonna change nothin'.
8. Less than five percent of the population will be affected.

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/LessorFewer/LessorFewer01.html
Anonymous:
In theory, any sentence using the words 'fewer' or 'less' are in some sense measuring (comparing) something so if that were the case, you would never use 'fewer' at all.

Measurement words are all countable nouns, by definition. One inch, two inches.

We have irregular non-countable nouns such as 'people' that is always plural but can also refer to a singular collective mass.

'Words' can be a countable noun (plural) or refer to a (single) collective mass, depending on the context.

So, as they all (see below) use countable nouns in context, they all should have 'fewer' not 'less' - except 8 because 'population' is a non-countable noun, so 'less' is correct.

and, 6b You need to eat less sweets. because 'sweets' is being used as a mass noun and is not modified by a numeral.
Anonymous:
i am from pakistan i thank you for clearing my confusion because i am non english but still the government or office language of my country is english
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