Fewer: It refers to nouns that can be counted, such as bowls of rice and chocolate bars. Less: It refers to nouns that can be counted, such as rice and chocolates.

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Use of Fewer

If the noun being measured is countable, like bowls of rice or chocolate bars, use fewer. We need to serve fewer bowls of rice. The chef used fewer chocolate bars while making the cupcakes.

Use of Less

If the noun cannot be counted, like rice or chocolate, use less. We need to serve less rice. The chef used less chocolate while making the cupcakes.

Some Exceptions

1. Time, Money, Distance and Weight It is possible to count all four entities based on their units. In accordance with the rule, we must use fewer. Because they are amounts rather than numbers, we choose less when referring to them.


He makes less than $1000 a month from his business. I have less than three years left for my next promotion. The new resort is located less than 5 miles from here. Most premature babies weigh less than 2.5 kg.

2. Percentage

Even though percentage is a measurement in itself, using less or fewer depends on what's being measured. Fewer than 5% of the farmers opted for the new agricultural policy. It is not easy to count the number of farmers, but it is possible.

So, we use fewer when discussing percentages of countable items. The sample contains less than 20% water as compared to the standard. Water cannot be counted here. For such percentages, we use less.

Importance in Academic writing

Fortunately, the rules discussed before are all applicable in academic writing as well. Incorrect: The cells were less and smaller than those in the condylar cartilage. Correct: The cells were fewer and smaller than those in the condylar cartilage

Cells are very small biological units, but they are still countable. Hence, fewer is used for cells. Incorrect: The difference was fewer significant for CR duration. Correct: The difference was less significant for CR duration. Significance cannot be counted but can be compared. So, less, is correct.