We often want to emphasize that something is better or worse or more or less than another. But the right way to do so can be confusing. For example, is it correct to say “much fewer?”
It is correct to say “much fewer” when you want to emphasize or compare amounts. “Much” is an adverb modifying the adjective “fewer,” which shows that there is far less of something compared to something else. However, you should only use “much fewer” with countable nouns, as in “He has much fewer apples than before.”
Continue reading to learn more about the meaning of “much fewer,” how and when to use it correctly, and other similar phrases you can use instead.
What Does “Much Fewer” Mean?
When you say “much fewer,” you are comparing or adding emphasis to show that there is a smaller amount of something, typically a countable or plural noun.
Using these two words together may seem contradictory because one means more while the other means less. But you can use this phrase to add emphasis, showing that there is a larger amount, far less than what you are comparing it to.
- I have much fewer cookies than I had hoped!
In the above example, you are adding emphasis. Not only do you have fewer cookies than you had hoped – you have a lot fewer.
You can also say, “I have much fewer cookies left after the party than I did last time.” Here, you are using the phrase to compare this time and a previous time. Last time you had fewer cookies than you had hoped, but this time you have even fewer.
Some say you don’t need to use the word “much.” You can use “fewer” alone to indicate the same meaning. But “much” is a determiner – a unique type of describing word – similar to an adjective you can use with nouns.
So, when you use the phrase “much fewer,” you add emphasis to show that there is a large or variable quantity that is less than what you had perhaps expected.
How Do You Use “Much Fewer”?
To use much fewer correctly, be certain that you intend to add emphasis to a countable noun that either follows the phrase or that your reader or the person you speak to can assume based on context.
The word “much” means that you are referring to a large amount of something.
When you use “much” as a determiner, such as “much fewer,” you add emphasis and specifically connect the phrase to the noun that follows. Remember that a determiner is a word you can use before a noun to indicate what you are referring to.
As an adverb, the meaning is not different; you indicate something of a large extent or degree. “Much” modifies the adjective or describing word “fewer,” adding emphasis to the quantity or showing a comparison.
You can also use “fewer” as a pronoun when the noun you are replacing is understood or assumed, such as when saying, “There are much fewer today than yesterday.” Based on the context, your reader or listener should know what you are referencing.
Alone, “fewer” is also an adjective and the comparative form of “few.” Later in this article, we’ll discuss comparative and superlative adjectives.
Remember to use this phrase specifically when you want to show or add emphasis. If you do not intend to add emphasis to what you are saying or writing, it’s best to stick to “fewer” alone to indicate a smaller amount of something.
One quick note – and we’ll talk about this a bit more in the section below explaining when not to use “much fewer” – is that if you want to add emphasis to an uncountable noun, you’ll want to use the word “less” instead. For instance, milk is a noun, but you cannot count it unless you are talking about gallons of milk.
So, in that case, you’d say, “I have much less milk than I thought.” You’re still adding emphasis, but the only difference is that milk is not countable. Thus, you’ll need to use “less” instead.
When Can You Use “Much Fewer”?
You can use “much fewer” any time you want to compare two things or emphasize the quantity or amount of something. Examples include comparing the number of people at one event to another or comparing two different amounts of something, such as cookies, basketballs, or other countable nouns.
The connotation or emotion attached to this phrase is neither positive nor negative. You’ll determine that based on the context of the conversation or sentences surrounding the phrase. But its use is appropriate when adding emphasis positively or negatively. We’ll show more examples shortly, but take a look at the sentences below:
- I have much fewer apples for the pie than I realized. I’ll need to go back to the store.
Above, the connotation is somewhat negative in that the speaker probably hoped to have more apples. Unfortunately, not only does she have fewer – she has a lot fewer than she realized.
Here’s another example:
- There are much fewer tickets left than I thought! I can’t believe we sold them all!
In this sentence, the connotation is more positive, indicating that there are much fewer tickets remaining and a sense of unexpected excitement that the speaker was able to sell so many tickets.
Again, use this phrase to emphasize or indicate a comparison in various contexts. It often works very well when the situation is unexpected.
When Not to Use “Much Fewer”
You should not use “much fewer” if you do not want to show emphasis or indicate a comparison. You should also avoid using it with uncountable nouns or nouns that you cannot count quantitatively.
A countable noun is what it says – it is a noun you can count in numbers. Countable nouns can be plural, while an uncountable noun is one that you cannot express in the plural form or count quantitatively, such as water, air, or food (source).
Above, we mentioned that if you want to add emphasis or show the comparison for an uncountable noun, you should use the word “less” instead.
So, for example, I might say, “I have much less money in my wallet after going to the mall.” Money is an uncountable noun, and you can’t pluralize money by adding an “s.” So, that’s a good test – if you can add an “s” to the noun, it’s probably countable.
It is incorrect to say, “I have much fewer money in my wallet after going to the mall,” since money is not countable.
Using “Much Fewer” in a Full Sentence
Using “much fewer” in a full sentence is simple, as long as your sentence is complete and you are showing emphasis or indicating a comparison between two things, whether stated explicitly or something your reader/listener can assume.
Here are a few examples showing you how you can use “much fewer” in a complete sentence:
- My sister has much fewer people at her house now that it is so late in the day.
- There were much fewer at the show today.
- Please buy much fewer today; we had to throw a lot away yesterday.
As another example, in a conversation, you can use “much fewer” to answer a question:
- “How many people are coming to the meeting today?” “Much fewer than last time.”
- “How many bags of pretzels do you want me to buy?” “Much fewer than before.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Much Fewer”?
You can use “much less” instead of “much fewer” when referencing an uncountable noun. Other similar phrases include “significantly fewer” or “considerably fewer ” for countable nouns.
While there aren’t too many equally synonymous phrases to “much fewer,” below are some others that you can use instead. But remember, too, that if you don’t need to add emphasis, you can use “fewer” alone as well.
- Markedly fewer
- A lot fewer
- Much smaller (when indicating size)
- Fewer yet
- Far fewer
Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
We can use comparative and superlative adjectives to compare two or more things. Comparative adjectives compare two things, while superlative adjectives compare more than two things.
When comparing two nouns, use adjectives with an “-er” ending, or “more” or “less.” There are three rules to remember when deciding whether you should add an “-er” ending to the adjective or if you should use “more” or “less.”
For adjectives that are one syllable, you’ll add an “-er” ending to change it to the comparative form. For adjectives with two or more syllables, use the words “more” or “less.”
- The sun looks more orange this early in the morning.
- My dog is bigger than my sister’s.
For superlatives, the rules are similar, but you’ll add “-est” to most regular adjectives. Be sure you compare more than two things when using the superlative form. You’ll always use the comparative form if you compare only two things.
- My brother is the tallest in his class.
“Tallest” is the superlative form of “tall,” and the speaker indicates that her brother is not just taller than one person but also taller than all of the others in his class.
You can also use “least” and “most” for superlative adjectives. Rather than adding an “-est,” you’ll use “least” or “most” before the adjective.
- That was the most exciting roller coaster I have ever been on!
- That was the least exciting ride in the whole park.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
If you’d like to read more about other ways to compare two or more things, take a look at
Using “much fewer” is a good way to show comparison or add emphasis. Just remember that you’ll only want to use this phrase with countable nouns.
Also, remember that it is okay to use “fewer” alone in most contexts, particularly when you don’t want to add emphasis but simply want to show a comparison in amount or number.