Fewer versus Less – Thoughts of a Grammar Geek

I know today is Tuesday, and normally I would have posted My Tuesday Three, but I had a thought yesterday that I wanted to share.

I love words, love to write, and love to read. I also love words in music. I can tend to be a little critical, though, when I read something or hear lyrics and there is a grammatical error. I’m a little more forgiving with lyrics (and poetry), but only a little. For some reason grammatical errors just drive me nuts. It’s the curse of the grammar geek.

The difference between “fewer” and “less” is one of those grammatical distinctions that most people don’t give a second thought to. They stand in the Express Line at the grocery store and don’t blink an eye at the sign that says the line is for shoppers with “15 items or less.” If you are one of those people, you are probably wondering what I’m talking about. Well, let me explain.

The word “fewer” is used to refer to a smaller amount of countable items, such as bananas and cans of soup in a grocery cart. The word “less” is appropriate only to refer to a smaller amount of an uncountable thing, such as air or sand.

Yesterday as I was getting ready for work, Amazing Grace as sung by Elvis Presley came on. It’s an interesting rendition that includes the final verse that many people aren’t familiar with.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

I immediately thought, “Hey, that’s grammatically incorrect. Days can be counted and so it should say ‘fewer days’ instead of ‘less days’.” But then I thought about it more and I realized “less” is the correct word. Even though technically days can be counted, the days that we will have to sing God’s praise are endless and uncountable. Trying to count the days of eternity would be like trying to count the grains of sand on coastline of Hawaii.

And they will be the most wonderful days of our lives. These are the thoughts of a grammar geek who is also a Jesus freak.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


4 Responses

  1. You even rhymed here with grammar geek and Jesus freak. 🙂 Thank you for keeping us all on our toes and all nodding our heads in agreement that our days of praising Him are uncountable. Yay! You have put the happy in my Tuesday!
    God bless you as you read , write, and listen, always on the look out for His truth!

    • Deb, I’m so glad I put the happy in your Tuesday! 🙂 That makes me happy, too. I usually say I’m a grammer curmudgeon, but that doesn’t rhyme with much of anything. 😉 Peace, Linda

  2. Good stuff, Linda (Grammar Geek, Jesus Freak 🙂 )
    Thank you for sharing. Good to know I am normal … I think 🙂
    I like your analysis of Amazing Grace. Beautiful song, but he newer versions don’t sing about the “wretch” … I hear worm, and one, but the wretches have all been saved, I take it. lol
    Isn’t it amazing that we have as long as we have lived and many more days to sing His praise? I am looking forward! (At least then I will be able to sing, sing, sing and write nary a report! 😉
    By the way, you did share yuur Tuesday Three 🙂 : “love to write, and love to read. I also love words in music.” 😉

    By the way, I know your twin!! 🙂 . I also know the parents, siblings and cousins of those who do the ‘sneak-by’ check-out. My beloved is notorious for counting out loud as the shopper puts the items on the counter 🙂

    I shall go now and rest my hyperactive, sleep-deprived self. 🙂 Thanks for the message and the smiles.

    • Ann, We actually have one store near us called Whole Foods that has a grammatically correct sign in its express line – 15 items or fewer. 🙂 It always makes me smile. Thanks for pointing out that I did, indeed, include My Tuesday Three. Now go get some sleep. 🙂 Peace, Linda

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