30 minutes or fewer?

 
Mass Nouns vs. Count Nouns, or the difference between “less enthusiastic people” and “fewer enthusiastic people."

Mass Nouns versus Count Nouns

Choose the better word(s) in the examples below:
  1. When leading a workshop, people can easily worry that (fewer, less) people will show than said they would.
  2. Since Julie’s Prius uses less gas, it spews out (less, fewer) emissions.
  3. Despite what Duke Energy’s bill said was due, she found no increase in the (amount, number) of kilowatts used.
  4. This container can measure as (little, few) as two teaspoons to as (much, many) as four quarts.
  5. After the scandal, voters found one (less, fewer) candidate on the ballot.
  6. The pizza parlor promised it would be delivered in 30 minutes or (less, fewer).

  1. Fewer is used with count nouns, or nouns you can count (4 cups). Less is often used with mass nouns, or nouns you can’t count (milk).
    When leading a workshop, people can easily worry that fewer people will show than said they would.

  2. Since there can be more than one type of emission (emissions), it is a count noun.
    Since Julie’s Prius uses less gas, it spews out fewer emissions.

  3. Amount is like less and used with mass nouns; number is like fewer and used with count nouns.
    Despite what Duke Energy said was due, she found no increase in the number of kilowatts used.

  4. Little and much are used with mass nouns; few and many are used with count nouns. This container can measure from as few as two teaspoons to as many as four quarts.

  5. Generally, even with count nouns, in reference to a single entity, use less.
    After the scandal, voters found one less candidate on the ballot.

  6. Less is also used with a number that describes a quantity considered as a single bulk amount. Examples seem to focus on measurements: time, age, an amount of money, distance. It might be helpful to think of it in this respect: You may say, “30 minutes is a lot of time” but not “30 minutes are a lot of time” or “Four miles is a long ways to go,” not “Four miles are a long ways to go.” This is because the values, although plural count nouns, stand for single mass units.
    The pizza parlor promised it would be delivered in 30 minutes or less.
Comments