by Jennie Ruby
Many people who know that "10 items or fewer" is correct and "10 items or less" is wrong still get confused by amounts of money and time. Is it "They gave me less than 10 minutes to fill out the form" or should that be fewer?
Usually, you should use fewer with things you can count:
You should use less with noncount nouns--things that come in mass rather than units:
So what is it about amounts of money and time that is confusing? The problem is that money and time are noncount nouns, but units of either are clearly count nouns. When both a countable unit and the concept of time appear in a sentence, you retain the concept of time as a noncount, mass noun rather than going with the fact that you can count units of time. Thus, even though you can count minutes, you are still talking about a mass of time. Thus:
The movie lasted less than 2 hours.
The explosion occurred in less than 450 nanoseconds.
Here are some examples with money:
If you really, really mean you are counting the individual units and not an amount of money, you might then use the word fewer:
I hope this information means you can spend fewer minutes thinking about this question and thus waste less time!
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