Less vs. Lesser – What’s the Difference? (Examples)

Marcus Froland

Many people mix up less and lesser. They sound similar, right? But the truth is, they serve different purposes in the English language. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they’re interchangeable. However, making the distinction between these two words can elevate your writing from good to great.

In this piece, we’ll break down the nuts and bolts of less and lesser, so you can use them correctly without a second thought. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s these little things that polish your English skills. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, we’ve got a curveball that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about these two words.

Many people mix up less and lesser, but they serve different purposes. Use less when talking about a quantity that can’t be counted. For example, “I need less sugar in my coffee.” It refers to an amount of something that is not specific. On the other hand, lesser compares two things, showing that one is not as important or good as the other. An example would be, “Of the two options, running is the lesser evil compared to dieting.” So, less deals with amounts of uncountable items, and lesser is used for comparing the importance or quality of two things.

Understanding the Basic Differences: Less vs. Lesser

In order to communicate effectively and accurately in English, it’s essential to recognize the distinct purposes and applications of less and lesser. Let’s delve into each of these words and their grammatical functions.

Defining ‘Less’ in the English Language

‘Less’ serves as a determiner, pronoun, or adverb, signifying a decreased amount or degree when making comparisons. Often paired with singular uncountable nouns, ‘less’ is essential for conveying a sense of reduction, absence, or diminution. For instance, Using less sugar will help your health condition exemplifies ‘less’ as a determiner, while He turned out to be less slow after practicing that hard showcases ‘less’ as an adverb. Though colloquial language commonly utilizes ‘less’ with countable nouns, doing so is not grammatically correct—instead, ‘fewer’ is appropriate, as in Mr. Tan has fewer students than Mr. Smith.

Exploring the Adjective ‘Lesser’

On the other hand, ‘lesser’ exclusively functions as an adjective, denoting an inferior rank, degree, or importance. Rather than using ‘than’ for comparisons, ‘lesser’ inherently compares without any additional connectors. Compare the examples They are lesser people who cannot afford their life and He belonged to the lesser-known arts that became famous after his death—both sentences illustrate the proper utilization of ‘lesser’ to convey a lower significance or notability relative to others.

Remember: ‘Less’ corresponds to quantity and degree. ‘Lesser’ pertains to importance or rank.

Armed with a deeper understanding of the fundamental differences between ‘less’ and ‘lesser’, you can now apply these grammar rules more competently and confidently in your written and spoken English.

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When to Use ‘Less’ in a Sentence

Understanding how to use the word ‘less’ correctly in a sentence is essential for proper grammar. It is important to differentiate between using ‘less’ with uncountable nouns and its function as an adverb or pronoun.

The Correct Use of ‘Less’ with Uncountable Nouns

One of the primary uses of ‘less’ is with singular uncountable nouns, which can be measured in some way. ‘Less’ is typically used when making comparisons or discussing reductions in quantity. Consider the example: “I eat less chocolate than I used to”. This statement implies that the quantity of chocolate consumed has decreased. Notice that the focus is on the volume or degree of the chocolate, rather than importance or hierarchy.

They noticed the room had less furniture, making it appear more spacious.

Examples of ‘Less’ as an Adverb and Pronoun

As an adverb, ‘less’ traditionally follows verbs and precedes adjectives or other adverbs in a sentence. For instance, consider the sentence “He turned out to be less slow after practicing that hard”. In this example, ‘less’ is modifying the adjective ‘slow’ and illustrating a comparison between two states of speed.

When ‘less’ functions as a pronoun, it stands alone to replace a noun phrase. For example, “Less of the cereal was left in the bowl.” Here, ‘less’ stands in for the cereal, showcasing a diminished amount of the uncountable noun.

  1. I felt less tired after taking a nap.
  2. There is less traffic in the early morning.
  3. He travels less frequently now than he did before.

In summary, ‘less’ is crucial for grammatically sound comparisons or reductions in quantity with uncountable nouns, functioning adaptively as a determiner, pronoun, or adverb. Remembering these distinctions and examples will help ensure your writing is clear and concise.

Examples and Misconceptions Around ‘Lesser’

Despite its precise meaning and usage, the word ‘lesser’ often falls victim to misconceptions and misapplication, primarily due to confusion with its counterpart, ‘less.’ A common mistake is using ‘lesser’ in comparative structures alongside ‘than,’ which goes against proper grammar rules. To understand the correct usage of ‘lesser’ and dispel any confusion, let’s explore some examples that demonstrate its accurate and erroneous application.

Correct Usage: ‘Lesser’ should be employed to denote an element’s lower importance or rank, without focusing on the quantity. Here are some examples of appropriate usage:

  • The lesser-known artist displayed exceptional talent in her paintings.
  • She decided to focus on the lesser challenges first to build her confidence.
  • Many people prefer lesser-known vacation spots to avoid crowded tourist areas.
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Incorrect Usage: The main misconception around ‘lesser’ arises when it’s misused in place of ‘less’ for making comparisons or quantifiable measures. Here are some examples of incorrect usage:

  • I have lesser homework than my brother. (Use ‘less’ instead)
  • He has lesser energy than he should have had. (Use ‘less’ instead)
  • The party saw a lesser number of attendees than expected. (Use ‘fewer’ instead)

Remember: ‘Lesser’ should be used to signify the lower importance, quality, or rank of something, without mentioning quantity or making direct comparisons with ‘than.’

By examining these examples, you can effectively differentiate between the proper and improper applications of ‘lesser’ and avoid grammar pitfalls. To clarify any lingering doubts, remember to use ‘lesser’ to express inferiority or subordination, whereas ‘less’ or ‘fewer’ serve for comparisons concerning quantity. Ultimately, understanding these nuances will help you steer clear of misconceptions and communicate with precision and confidence.

Common Errors: Misspeaking with ‘Less’ and ‘Lesser’

Despite their fundamental differences, it’s not uncommon to see less and lesser misused in speech and writing. To improve your understanding of correct grammar usage and avoid such mistakes, let’s explore some common errors related to these comparative terms.

Correcting Misuses of ‘Less’ and ‘Lesser’

The most frequent mistake involves using ‘lesser’ when ‘less’ is the appropriate term, particularly when dealing with quantity rather than quality. For example:

Incorrect: I have lesser homework than my brother.
Correct: I have less homework than my brother.

Remember that ‘less’ is principally used for comparisons of quantity or degree, while ‘lesser’ pertains to importance or rank. To make it simpler, follow this rule of thumb: ‘less’ is for quantity, and ‘lesser’ is for quality.

Other common errors include the use of ‘lesser’ with ‘than’ and opting for ‘less’ when ‘fewer’ is the correct term. For instance:

Incorrect: There were lesser than ten books on the shelf.
Correct: There were fewer than ten books on the shelf.

In summary, to avoid common errors with ‘less’ and ‘lesser’, remember the fundamental distinctions concerning their usage:

  • Utilize ‘less’ for quantity or degree comparisons, especially with singular uncountable nouns.
  • ‘Lesser’ is strictly an adjective and should be employed when referring to importance or quality comparisons.
  • Ensure you boldly distinguish between ‘less’ and ‘lesser’, as they are not interchangeable.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, you will significantly improve your grammar and communication in both writing and speech.

Tips for Remembering the Distinction Between ‘Less’ and ‘Lesser’

Knowing the distinction between ‘less’ and ‘lesser’ is essential for proper grammar usage. These terms are often confused, but with some simple tips, you can ensure your English remains fluent and accurate. Keep in mind the key differences between the two to avoid common errors when comparing quantities or qualities.

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First, try linking ‘less’ with quantity or amount. Remember that it is most often used in comparative situations, and can function as a determiner, pronoun, or adverb. When comparing quantities of uncountable nouns, reach for ‘less’ instead of ‘lesser.’ For example, “I have less money than before.” Additionally, ‘less’ can precede adjectives and adverbs like in “He is less confident now.”

On the other hand, associate ‘lesser’ with importance or rank. This term is solely an adjective, used to describe something as not as significant or notable as something else. Remember that ‘lesser’ should not be used in comparisons with ‘than.’ Examples include, “She chose the lesser of two evils,” and “The artist gained recognition after painting a lesser-known landscape.” By committing these distinctions to memory and practicing their usage, you will improve your written and spoken English, and stay on top of your grammar game.

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