"Less than" or "fewer than"?

(31 Posts)
Melpomene Thu 13-Jun-13 12:11:01

Should it be "less than 28 days later" or "fewer than 28 days later"?

In theory "fewer than" is more correct, isn't it? But it doesn't sound quite right.

burberryqueen Fri 21-Jun-13 09:44:20

yes exactly but only if they were coins right?

prism Fri 21-Jun-13 11:25:55

I'm flattered, Cooroo.

It's all very irritating- if we're going to have different words for "<" that apply to countable items and measurable quantities (thus showing that English speakers have an innate understanding of number theory), then we ought to have two words for "more" as well. I'm going to check with DD when she gets back from Germany whether they try the same daft trick; the French don't, and I think it's because they know they'd be barking up the wrong linguistic tree.

Cooroo Fri 21-Jun-13 15:21:10

That's an interesting line of enquiry... off to google!

WMittens Sat 22-Jun-13 13:29:35

yep agree with chugnut cos apparently time and money are uncountable - which is odd as we spend a lot of time counting them. but there ya go.

You're confusing a thing being countable, and a continuous thing whose units of measurement are countable.

burberryqueen Sat 22-Jun-13 14:28:21

no i am not confused at all, pounds you could count obvs.

prism Sat 22-Jun-13 21:35:07

Yes, pounds can be counted, as can pennies, days, months etc. But that's not to say that there isn't a difference between a number of items and a quantity of something; money, time etc. So if you're asking "How many pound coins do I need to operate this machine?" the answer could be "Fewer than 10", whereas if my DD, with a tenner in her pocket, asks that well-known rhetorical question "How much will I need to buy lunch?" the correct (grammatically as well as parentally) answer is "Less than ten pounds". Just as it would be if she had £10.50 in her pocket, when it would be "Less than £10.50", except in that case it's more obvious that only the word "less" can be used, and you don't get sucked into faux-pedantry by the juicy option of saying "Fewer than £10".

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