[Gllug] Schoolboy Grammar

Stuart Sears stuart at sjsears.com
Wed Mar 28 14:36:01 UTC 2012

On 28/03/12 15:18, Nix wrote:
> On 28 Mar 2012, Stuart Sears spake thusly:
>> (never mind "I" vs "me"
> I don't understand why this is emphasised so much when people never
> emphasise 'he' versus 'him'. It seems to be a cause of overcorrection
> and nothing else.

It's an example of a common error, nothing more. Although I hear that  a
lot more than he vs him, she vs her, who vs whom, which are all the same
idea, simple subject-object confusion.

I'm sure the distinction will evolve out of the language over time as
many of the more inflected items already have.

>>                         and "less" vs "fewer" which annoy me too.
> That's a really nasty one. There are many instances for which both are
> valid, the standard 'count noun' thing is simplistic, and in general if
> you're not sure which you should use, just use 'less'. It's clear that
> 'less trees' is worse than 'fewer trees', but 'less than five words' is
> definitely better than 'fewer than five words', even though 'five words'
> is countable.

I would say 'fewer' for that one. It sounds right to me and, in general,
I would opine that you use 'fewer' with most plurals when you are
referring to them directly and you're not "shortening" a longer phrase.

There are exceptions, of course. English is a very confused language
compared to many others.

so, "fewer than ten items", but "less than ten minutes" IMHO
(usually short for ten minutes' time, which is not countable :) )

however, once again, lots of contradictory examples out there.

> The always excellent MWDEU says
>> The OED shows that 'less' has been used of countables since the time
>> of King Alfred the Great... more than a thousand years ago (in about
>> 888). So essentially 'less' has been used of countables in English for
>> just about as long as there has been a written English language.
> but is eventually forced to admit
>> If you are a native speaker, your use of /less/ and /fewer/ can
>> reliably be guided by your ear.
> i.e. if there is a hard rule, it hasn't been explicated yet. (Like most
> such rules, the true underlying rule is likely far too complex to follow
> consciously at conversational speed, and probably varies among the
> population of native speakers.)

Stuart Sears RHCA etc.
"It's today!" said Piglet.
"My favourite day," said Pooh.
Gllug mailing list  -  Gllug at gllug.org.uk

More information about the GLLUG mailing list