14 May 2009
Take this sign at my local ASDA grocery store. Is it right?
Well, no it’s not. But it’s not the only supermarket that’s been having less/fewer issues.
A couple of years back Tesco changed the wording on their fast-track checkouts to avoid any – as they called it – linguistic disputes. They replaced the ’10 items or less’ signs with ‘up to 10 items’ signs. (So is that 10 items or 9 items? Hmmm…)
So back to the ASDA sign. What should it be? It should be fewer. As fewer means not as many. And less means not as much. If something is countable, use fewer. If not, use less.
My bath uses fewer gallons (countable) of water than a shower
My bath uses less water (not countable) than a shower
Or an easy way to remember:
There’s less traffic on the roads and fewer cars.