How to Know Which Adjective to Choose
Choosing between “fewer” and “less:” If the object is countable, you will generally choose “fewer.” Although when referring to money or numbers, you will use “less:” “The shirt costs less than $20.”
There is a lot of freedom in deciding which adjectives you use. It really just depends upon the point the author is trying to make, or what the author wants the reader or listener to envision.
For example, someone may use certain adjectives in order to exaggerate a point, or they may use adjectives in order to be very specific. So, there is a way to write in which you may not be literally correct, but you can be grammatically correct.
In this video, we will discuss a few adjectives that often get misused.
First, farther vs. further. You would use farther when you are talking about geographical distance. Look at this sentence: Once you see the red barn on your right, drive down about half a mile farther.
In this sentence, you are referring to the distance that someone should drive, so farther is the correct adjective.
You would use further when describing the magnitude or severity of a situation or an action being taken, it can also refer to figurative distance. For example: “He decided that no further action was needed.”
The next set of adjectives that frequently get misused are fewer, and less.
You should use fewer when you are referring to things that can or should have a specific measurable value, or can be counted. For example: We brought fewer players to the tournament this year. In this case we are using fewer to reference something that can be easily quantified.
Less should be used when you are referring to something that is not specifically quantified, but rather you are referring to a whole. For example: “There was less water in the lake this year.”
Less is used in this case, because they are not referring to a specific quantity. It is just generally being stated that the water was down.
The last type of adjective we will talk about are superlatives. A superlative can be an adjective or an adverb that refers to the subject as exceeding or surpassing everyone else. This means that there can only be one. Example of superlatives are best, worst, least, most, and several other words ending in “est.”
It would be incorrect to say: “He is one of the best athletes.” A correct way to say this might be, “he is the best athlete.”
Here is another example: “The TV show we watched last night is one of the most popular shows on TV.”
This is incorrect. A correct way to say this could be to say, “The TV show we watched last night is among the more popular shows on TV.”
These distinctions may seem small and insignificant. Like, why does it matter? People will get the point either way. And you are probably right, however, as a writer or speaker, understanding these distinctions, can help to add clarity, and can help to minimize the risk of tainting your credibility.
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