less

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UK:*UK and possibly other pronunciationsUK and possibly other pronunciations/ˈlɛs/US:USA pronunciation: IPA and respellingUSA pronuncation: IPA/lɛs/ ,USA pronunciation: respelling(les)


From little (advadverb: Describes a verb, adjective, adverb, or clause--for example, "come quickly," "very rare," "happening now," "fall down."):
less
adv comparative (When talking about amount)
lesser
adv comparative (To modify an adjective—e.g. "That is a little-known work of art, but this is an even lesser-known one.")
least
adv superlative
From little (adjadjective: Describes a noun or pronoun--for example, "a tall girl," "an interesting book," "a big house."):
littler
adj comparative (For size or age—e.g."That tree is little, but the tree next to it is even littler.")
littlest
adj superlative (For size or age—e.g. "Theo is the littlest of my three little brothers.")
less
adj comparative (For amount—e.g. "I have little money. Certainly less money than him.")
lesser
adj comparative (For degree or intensity—e.g. "She has little love for him. Certainly, her love for him is lesser than her love for her mother.")
least
adj superlative (For amount—e.g. "I have little money, but Jim is the one who has least money out of all of us.")
WordReference Collins English Usage © 2020
less
used in front of nouns
You use less in front of an uncountable noun to say that one quantity is not as big as another, or that a quantity is not as big as it was before.
A shower uses less water than a bath.
His work gets less attention than it deserves.
Less is sometimes used in front of plural nouns.
This proposal will mean less jobs.
Less people are going to university than usual.
Some people think this use is wrong. They say that you should use fewer in front of plural nouns, not ‘less’.
There are fewer trees here.
The new technology allows products to be made with fewer components than before.
However, fewer sounds formal when used in conversation. As an alternative to ‘less’ or ‘fewer’, you can use not as many or not so many in front of plural nouns. These expressions are acceptable in both conversation and writing.
There are not as many cottages as there were.
There aren't so many trees there.
After not as many and not so many you use as, not ‘than’.
‘less than’ and ‘fewer than’
You use less than in front of a noun phrase to say that an amount or measurement is below a particular point or level.
It's hard to find a house in Beverly Hills for less than a million dollars.
I travelled less than 3000 miles.
Less than is sometimes used in front of a noun phrase referring to a number of people or things.
The whole of Switzerland has less than six million inhabitants.
The country's army consisted of less than a hundred soldiers.
Some people think this use is wrong. They say that you should use fewer than, not ‘less than’, in front of a noun phrase referring to people or things.
He had never been in a class with fewer than forty children.
In 1900 there were fewer than one thousand university teachers.
You can use less than in conversation, but you should use fewer than in formal writing.
However, fewer than can only be used when the following noun phrase refers to a number of people or things. Don't use ‘fewer than’ when the noun phrase refers to an amount or measurement. Don't say, for example, `I travelled fewer than 3000 miles.
‘less’ used in front of adjectives
Less can be used in front of an adjective to say that someone or something has a smaller amount of a quality than they had before, or a smaller amount than someone or something else has.
After I spoke to her, I felt less worried.
Most of the other plays were less successful.
Be careful
Don't use ‘less’ in front of the comparative form of an adjective. Don't say, for example, ‘It is less colder than it was yesterday’. Say ‘It is less cold than it was yesterday’.
‘not as ... as’
In conversation and informal writing, people don't usually use ‘less’ in front of adjectives. They don't say, for example, ‘It is less cold than it was yesterday’. They say ‘It is not as cold as it was yesterday’.
The region is not as pretty as the Dordogne.
Not so is also sometimes used, but this is less common.
The officers here are not so young as the lieutenants.
After not as and not so, you use as, not ‘than’.
WordReference Collins English Usage © 2020
little - a little
‘little’ used as an adjective
Little is usually an adjective. You use it to talk about the size of something.
He took a little black book from his pocket.
‘a little’ used as an adverb
A little is usually an adverb. You use it after a verb, or in front of an adjective or another adverb. It means ‘to a small extent or degree’.
They get paid for it. Not much. Just a little.
The local football team is doing a little better.
The celebrations began a little earlier than expected.
Be careful
Don't use ‘a little’ in front of an adjective when the adjective comes in front of a noun. Don't say, for example, ‘It was a little better result’. Say ‘It was a slightly better result’ or ‘It was a somewhat better result’.
Adverbs and adverbials (for a graded list of words used to indicate degree)
used in front of nouns
Little and a little are also used in front of nouns to talk about quantities. When they are used like this, they do not have the same meaning.
You use a little to show that you are talking about a small quantity or amount of something. When you use little without ‘a’, you are emphasizing that there is only a small quantity or amount of something.
So, for example, if you say ‘I have a little money’, you are saying that you have some money. However, if you say ‘I have little money’, you mean that you do not have enough money.
I had made a little progress.
It is clear that little progress was made.
used as pronouns
Little and a little can be used in similar ways as pronouns.
Beat in the eggs, a little at a time.
Little has changed.
‘not much’
In conversation and in less formal writing, people do not usually use ‘little’ without ‘a’. Instead they use not much. For example, instead of saying ‘I have little money’, they say ‘I haven’t got much money' or ‘I don’t have much money'.
I haven't got much appetite.
We don't have much time.
Be careful
Don't use ‘little’ or ‘a little’ when you are talking about a small number of people or things. Don't say, for example, ‘She has a little hens’. Say ‘She has a few hens’. Similarly, don't say ‘Little people attended his lectures’. Say ‘Few people attended his lectures’, or ‘Not many people attended his lectures’.
'less' also found in these entries:
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