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etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:07:53 AM

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I searched in the forum and I didn't find any topic about that, so I would ask your advice about the problem.
I know the rule is "not as much=less" and "not as many=fewer"
But in sentences where there is "than", less has to be used before number on their own.
So, if I understand well, I should say:
- less than 5
- fewer than 5 people.
Is it correct? I have some difficulties to understand this specific part of English grammar
You know who I am
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:37:48 AM

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Location: Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil
etrusca wrote:
I searched in the forum and I didn't find any topic about that, so I would ask your advice about the problem.
I know the rule is "not as much=less" and "not as many=fewer"
But in sentences where there is "than", less has to be used before number on their own.
So, if I understand well, I should say:
- less than 5
- fewer than 5 people.
It's correct? I have some difficulties to understand this specific part of English grammar


Yes, that's right.

Few - contable nouns
Less - uncountable nouns.

than doesn't change either, they will remain the same regardless of it.

There were fewer kids than adults in my daughter's party.
There was less water than people in my house. (This example was so nonsense, sorry, I can't think of any at the moment.)

I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me. - John 14:6
etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:41:42 AM

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Thanks, but what about numbers on their own?
thar
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:42:38 AM

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Numbers are not countable or uncountable. They are the counting!

People are countable.
So you have fewer people, or more people.


Food is uncountable, so you have less food, or more food.


But if you have a number, that is just a single point. Five. Anything below five is less than five, whether it is 4 or 4.99999 or -20.
If the numbered item is people, then less than five people means four, three, two people, one person, no people. But it is the range that is important, not that it is people.
< 5. Less than five.
> 5 More than five.


If 'five' were a thing, a countable item, you could treat it like people.
I see fewer people than yesterday.
Other gymnasts received fewer sixes than Nadia Comaneci in the Olympic final. (Or was it tens?)

But the number line is a continuous range.

The number is:
Five
Exactly five
More than five
Less than five.

Less than five people.

But, in practice, you will see 'fewer' sometimes because the writer mentally treats this as 'fewer people than five [people]'.


Not talking about grammar rules, but the most natural word to use seems to depend on what you want to express.
Eg
This lift is for five people or less . [A number less than five]
Fewer than five people have walked on the Moon. [Fewer people]

Grammarians have at it. Whistle


Edit
This was answer to original post, but I think it answers your second post as well.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:52:44 AM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hi etrusca!
Welcome back!

Yes - it works like that, normally, but informally you can also use 'less'.

There is a lot of water. There is not much water. There is more water. There is less water. (Uncountable, mass noun)

There are a lot of dogs. There are not many dogs. There are more dogs. There are fewer dogs. (Countable nouns)

There are five people. There are fewer than five people. There are more than five people.

How many people are there? - There are five. There are more than five. There are fewer than five. (formal writing) There are less/lesser than five. (Informal writing and speech)

******************
There are exceptions.
When you are speaking about a measurement (time or distance particularly) it is usual to use 'less'.

In less than five years, I have saved a million pounds.
It is less than ten miles to the village.

There is a whole explanation on this page, from the Collins COBUILD English Usage Dictionary.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 11:54:40 AM

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Thanks Thar, yes your post solved both my questions. It's not the first time you help me! :-)
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 12:01:11 PM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
thar wrote:
(Or was it tens?)


Click on the picture.



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 12:04:47 PM

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Hi Dragon, thanks for your welcome. My brain is going dead and the more I study the issue the less I understand it. I'll study carefully that page: :-)
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 1:01:56 PM

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Joined: 9/12/2011
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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hello again.

I think that thar's last couple of lines really say how these are used in practice. Not many people think about the grammar rules while they are speaking.

If you are more concerned with the number (for example - if you are trying to calculate how much food you will need you are interested in the mathematical number of people) it is "less".
Will there be less than twenty people, or more? (Is the number I need to put in my calculations less than twenty?)

If you are concerned more by the group/mass or size/distance (the size of a crowd, the length of the road) you use "less".
If the audience is less than twenty thousand (people), we'll have no trouble.
The whole trip was less than two hundred miles.


If you are concerned with people (or whatever is being counted) as individuals (individual things) rather than 'the size of the crowd' or 'the size of the pile' - then you would use 'fewer'.
Of the whole population, there are fewer than one hundred people who will directly and personally change society. (I'm not interested in the mass - the whole population, I'm concerned abut the one hundred individuals)



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 1:19:24 PM

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Joined: 12/22/2010
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Yes, I came to the same conclusion, after spending a whole afternoon looking in the web for a solution. As a writer and translator freelancer I have to give a lot of attention to the grammar's rules. Thanks for your help, and if you'll need some tips for Italian language, please ask, I'll be happy to answer you. ;-)
Allana
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 1:33:07 PM

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Location: Saint Albans, England, United Kingdom
You started a fascinating thread, etrusca. Thank you.

Love your picture, but could not decide what animal it was. Could you let me know, please.


Thank you again, Allana

Don't be afraid to be wrong. You learn more. (Me)
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 1:39:50 PM

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Joined: 9/12/2011
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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Ho Ho!

My Italian is almost up to the level of the first page of the tourist's phrase-book! Dancing

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
etrusca
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 1:41:21 PM

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Hi Allana, it's a fox. Happy to hear you liked the thread.
coag
Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2017 3:38:13 PM

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There are "fewer / less" people
This thread might be useful for the question in the original post.
etrusca
Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2017 6:26:55 AM

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Joined: 12/22/2010
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Thanks Coag, it was indeed useful!
Romany
Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2017 7:29:22 AM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom


I am surprised: we managed to get through this whole thread without anyone bringing up the pundits favourite supermarket solecism: - "Ten items or less"!!
etrusca
Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2017 8:19:53 AM

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Joined: 12/22/2010
Posts: 499
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Romany, all started from there!
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