Few vs Less
Though people seem to use few and less alternatively, there actually exists a difference between few and less. Few and less both indicate a small number. However, before going into details of the difference between few and less, let us first have a look at the two words few and less separately. Few is used as a determiner, pronoun, adjective and a noun. Less is used as a determiner, pronoun, adjective, adverb as well as a preposition. Moreover, the origin of the word less lies in the Old English word lǣssa. On the other hand, the origin of the word few lies in the Old English words fēawe, fēawa.
What does Few mean?
The word few gives the following meaning as the Oxford English dictionary explains. Few is “used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is.”
There are few books in the shelf.
In this sentence, the usage of the word few suggests that there are only several books on the shelf. Also, when you put article the before the word few, it becomes the noun few. In this sense, the few means the minority of people or the elect. Look at the following example to understand how this the few is used in sentences.
Comfort and luxury are not just for the few.
In this sentence given above, the few means the minority. So the meaning of the sentence goes as comfort and luxury are not just for the minority.
What does Less mean?
On the other hand, the adjective less indicates a small number of objects or people according to the context as in the sentences given below. There was less number of candidates who attended the interview.
The number of people who speak the dialect was less.
The use of the adjective less indicates the number of candidates in the case of the first sentence and the number of people in the case of the second sentence. Take a look at the sentences given below.
Work more and talk less.
You should pay less than what he actually charges.
In both the sentences, the word less gives the sense of ‘small amount’. It is thus important to know that the word less is used as an opposite to the word more. Sometimes less is used as a replacement for the word a few. Look at the following sentences.
They brought a few apples with them.
They brought less apples with them.
Both the use of a few and less in the above sentences suggest that the number of apples they brought with them was small in number. Then, have a look at the sentences given below.
He is eating more vegetables these days.
He is eating less vegetable these days.
The two sentences given above show you how less is used as the opposite of the word more.
What is the difference between Few and Less?
• Few is used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is.
• On the other hand, the adjective less indicates a small number of objects or people according to the context. This is the main difference between the two words, namely, few and less.
• The word less gives the sense of ‘small amount’.
• The word less is used as an opposite to the word more.
• Sometimes less is used as a replacement for the word a few.