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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > less and less    

less and less


less and less
hi guys!
is it correct to say:
there are less and less polar bears on the ice floe?
thanks in advance.

4 Oct 2011      

maryse pey�

yes, it is Steph !

4 Oct 2011     


Shouldn �t it be " there are fewer and fewer polar bears on the ice floe " since "bear" is a countable noun ?

4 Oct 2011     


Yes, I totally agree with ikebana: it should be "there are fewer and fewer polar bears", because "bear" is a countable noun.

4 Oct 2011     


I �m a bit confused because I think that less and less is not grammatically correct in that case but I �m sure I �ve already seen this before... It would be great if a native speaker gave us his opinion. ;)

4 Oct 2011     


you use less with words that are not countable, and fewer with countable ones.
however you will hear native speakers use less for countable words (which does not mean that it is grammatically correct! for instance we �ve all heard "there �s many flies today!" rather than there are many flies today!) I am by no means saying that all natives make such mistakes but spoken english seems to have a life of its own!!!
If you are teaching your students so that their standard of english is as accurate as possible and grammatically flawless you �d have to make sure they use fewer with countable words and less with uncountable one. Now (and sorry if it rubs some the wrong way) IF your aim is that your students carry a message across in a casual manner or informal situation (if they won �t be sitting for an english exam) I would not worry too much if they get them muddled... But that�s my opinion...

4 Oct 2011     

United Kingdom

Be careful when you start throwing �rules � around. Here �s a reply from Geoffrey Pullum, co-author of the magisterial Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, to a question about an "objective, final authority" when it comes to disputes about grammar:

The first thing to say is that the only possible way to settle a question of grammar or style is to look at relevant evidence. I suppose there really are people who believe the rules of grammar come down from some authority on high, an authority that has no connection with the people who speak and write English; but those people have got to be deranged. How could there possibly be a rule of grammar that had nothing with the way the language is used or has been used by the sort of people who are most admired for their skill with it? What motive could there possibly be for following some rule if it had no connection to the actual practice of the sort of people you would like to be counted among, or regarded as similar to, with regard to the use of the language? Face it: a rule of English grammar that doesn �t have a basis in the way expert writers deploy the English language (or the way expert speakers speak it when at their best) is a rule that has no basis at all.

And this is what he says about �less � and �fewer �:

"...with many countable objects it just isn �t true that less is unacceptable for most Standard English speakers and writers, even for educated speakers using formal style." (find the full post here; you can find the views of some more of his fellow linguists here and here, and, if you �re still not convinced, try the Wikipedia entry).

4 Oct 2011     


There is indeed a difference between rules and daily usage as shown in the comic below. Background here.

5 Oct 2011