Fewer and Less

I’ve nearly given up on this one. But in the spirit of spitting into the wind, here goes:

Both words refer to smaller amounts of something. If you can count the individual things you’re describing, you say “fewer.” If you can’t count the things, you say “less.”

For example, we say, “I put less salt on now” because we aren’t into getting an exact count of salt crystals. We also say “less water” and “less time” and “less pain.”

But if you can count the things you’re talking about, or they each have individual worth even if there are many, we say “fewer”– such as “fewer people” and “fewer houses” or “fewer incidents.”

We can’t accurately say “We have five less cars on the lot” because we hope that we can count those cars. We say “We have five fewer cars on the lot.”

You could accurately say that something costs less money and be right. You could also say that it costs fewer dollars, and that would be correct. But it would be weird.


Based on / Based off of

We used to say “based on” when something (an idea, a film, a TV show) arose as the result of the existence of something else, or was built on a foundation of something else. A movie is “based on” a book, for example. We still should say “based on.”

Not sure where “based off of” comes from, but let’s put it out of its misery posthaste (that means right away). “Based off” doesn’t even make sense, because developments can only be based “on” something. Things only rest on other things, not off them. If it were based off, it would go flying from its foundation.

Perhaps the TV term “spinoff” is partly responsible for this. But a spinoff is still “based on” the original series.

Off with “based off of”…at least based on everything’ I’ve read.