Adjectives Versus Adverbs

A Note on Adjectives and Adverbs for Non-Native Speakers

When you make comparisons using adjectives and adverbs, pay attention to elements that can be counted and those that cannot. As you read earlier, remember that less and fewer cannot be interchanged. Less refers to amounts that form a whole or can't be counted (less money, less filling), while fewer refers to items that can be counted (fewer coins, fewer calories).

  1. For nouns that can be counted, use few, fewer, or fewest rather than little, less, or least to count down.
    • Incorrect: Carrot sticks have less calories than chocolate.
    • Correct: Carrot sticks have fewer calories than chocolate.
    • Because calories can be counted, use the adjective fewer rather than the adjective less.
  2. For mass nouns (which cannot be counted) use little, less, or least rather than few, fewer, or fewest to count down.
    • Incorrect: There's fewer water in this bucket than I expected.
    • Correct: There's less water in this bucket than I expected.
    • Because water is a mass noun that cannot be counted, use the adjective less rather than the adjective fewer.
  3. For nouns that can be counted, use the adjective many, not much.
    • Incorrect: Foi gras has much calories.
    • Correct: Foi gras has many calories.
    • Because calories can be counted, use the adjective many rather than the adjective much.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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