[Gllug] Schoolboy Grammar

Nix nix at esperi.org.uk
Wed Mar 28 14:18:17 UTC 2012

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.

>                         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.

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.)

NULL && (void)
Gllug mailing list  -  Gllug at gllug.org.uk

More information about the GLLUG mailing list