Finish advert with "less" chemicals.

(10 Posts)
MardyBra Thu 06-Mar-14 15:08:02

Grrr. I might switch to Fairy if they have fewer grammatical errors.

CumbersBumbersWumbers Thu 06-Mar-14 15:46:43

I was about to start a related thread - I've been wondering why people confuse less and fewer but not much and many. The distinction seems easier, but the rules are the same - if something can be counted in discrete units, it's many/fewer, if it can't, it's much/less.

I have less time than I thought - I don't have much time.
I bought fewer items - I don't have many items.

Noone would say I don't have many time, or I don't have much items, but '15 items or less' is almost ubiquitous.

MardyBra Thu 06-Mar-14 15:48:18

You get 10 items or fewer in Waitrose irrc.

ShatnersBassoon Thu 06-Mar-14 15:55:20

It could be true that the tablets contain less chemicals, perhaps because the tablets are smaller than they used to be. So they might have the same number of chemicals, but are reduced in volume.

CumbersBumbersWumbers Thu 06-Mar-14 16:30:11

That's true. I saw a programme recently which showed how you can claim something was 30%less fat!, just by making it that much smaller than the standard product. Evil marketing smile

ohmymimi Thu 06-Mar-14 19:01:30

Yes, it's not clear from the ad. whether 'less' refers to the number of different chemicals, or a reduction in the chemical volume. I think the latter makes more sense in the context of the ad., so I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. I spend too much time thinking about this stuff.

I was shouting at the telly when I saw this ad! I don't think they tie themselves in knots about it - they just say 'less' because it's easier than saying 'fewer', like the rest of the population, apart from the tiny minority of pedants still doing things correctly sad

DadDadDad Tue 11-Mar-14 00:25:54

So you were taught that less only applies to continuously varying quantities, and fewer to countable items, but who's to say that is correct. What makes you so sure it is an error? That's what I was taught too, so it does grate on my ear a bit, but...

The less / fewer distinction has crept into English and is accepted by many educated people, but it's not as rigid as you might think. languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2819 (link to a post written by a professor of linguistics, so he has studied these things rather than relying on "that's what my English teacher taught me!)

prism Tue 11-Mar-14 09:27:19

I don't think anything in that article undermines the existence of a rule (though the writer of it wouldn't agree with me about that); it just points out that sometimes there is an implicit context that allows "less" instead of "fewer". I'd say that "10 items or less" is one of them, for instance, because it means "less shopping", as opposed to "less items". But the Finish example is an interesting one, as, if you can stomach the idea of "chemicals" as a singular noun, the difference between "less" and "fewer" changes the meaning completely.

Chewedover Fri 14-Mar-14 15:02:12

Less sand, fewer sand castles.

I'm sure that, when there were dragons, those supermarket checkout signs used to say "10 items or under".

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