Hello, there, 

Would you please help me?

Which one/s of the following sentences is/are CORRECT?

  • You should have hired less number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired a less number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired a few number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired fewer number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.

 

Many thanks ...

Original Post

Hi, Hussein,

I find none of those options to be correct. Actually, "few" (meaning "not many") and "little" (meaning "not much"), along with all their variants (a few, fewer, (the) fewest, a little, less, (the) least), modify the nouns the quantity of which is being specified, for example:

  • (a) few / fewer / the fewest people (countable)
  • (a) little / less / the least broth (uncountable)


For the noun "number" (same thing with quantity, degree, extent, amount) we use the adjectives "large" and "small," or "high" and "low" (depending on the noun). We don't quantify the number, but specify its size, hence the use of those adjectives. Therefore, you could say, in correct English, any of the following:

  • You should have hired just a few people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired fewer people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired a small/low number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • You should have hired a smaller/lower number of people because too many cooks spoil the broth.

Hi, Hussein and Gustavo,

I completely agree with Gustavo's answer and I see that all his examples are very natural, but I'd like to refer to the fact that in our curriculum, we have the following sentence:

  • The tour guide said that ten is the least number of tourists she can take on the boat trip.

- First, I found it strange to use 'less / least' before 'number', but two of my friends have told me that it is possible to use 'number' to mean 'quantity' and that the sentence is correct as it is. (All the outside books have included 'less number' in their books now).

- On LDOCE (fifth definition), the word 'number' is listed as an uncountable noun meaning an amount of something that can be counted. So, controversially, I think that it is possible to use Hussein's first sentence even if it isn't idiomatic.

ahmed_btm posted:
  • The tour guide said that ten is the least number of tourists she can take on the boat trip.

- First, I found it strange to use 'less / least' before 'number', but two of my friends have told me that it is possible to use 'number' to mean 'quantity' and that the sentence is correct as it is. (All the outside books have included 'less number' in their books now).

Hello, Ahmed. Nice to see you here. Have you read Gustavo's reply to this point concerning the sentence you mentioned above?

https://thegrammarexchange.inf...west-or-least-number

ahmed_btm posted:

- On LDOCE (fifth definition), the word 'number' is listed as an uncountable noun meaning an amount of something that can be counted. So, controversially, I think that it is possible to use Hussein's first sentence even if it isn't idiomatic.

Actually, it wasn't mine, Ahmed. I just excerpted it from here: 

https://www.theidioms.com/too-...oks-spoil-the-broth/

My supervisor corrected it by adding "a" before "less", then I thought about some alternatives that might be used but wasn't sure, so I decided to ask here.

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Hi, Mr. Hussein,

I'm glad to see you, too. Yes, I've read Gustavo's reply before. Actually, I have said I completely agree with him. I know that most native speakers would use his examples, but my idea is that since 'number' can be use as an uncountable noun, so why not use 'less' before it? I said that according to what we teach, I see your first sentence is 'correct'. I don't know why your supervisor have added 'a' before 'less'. There is no need to add it.

Greetings, all.

First of all, let me say that I am in complete agreement with Gustavo.  I find all of Mr Hassan's examples unequivocably ungrammatical.

I would find his example "•" (as opposed to his other examples, "•", "•", and "•") acceptable if "less" were changed to "lesser".  The word is not commonly used except in certain set phrases (eg, "the lesser of two evils"), but because of such phrases it is commonly understood.  Mr Hassan, was there something in particular that made you not want to use index numbers or letters for your four examples?  This omission makes it very frustrating for me to respond to this thread.

Ahmed_btm, you wrote:

I'd like to refer to the fact that in our curriculum, we have the following sentence:

  • The tour guide said that ten is the least number of tourists she can take on the boat trip.

This is technically correct, but I'm not particularly fond of this usage.  The first time I heard it was in elementary school in reference to the mathematical term "the least common denominator", which I found confusing at the time.  It sounded like it should mean "the most uncommon denominator".  I've never heard the phrase since elementary school.  People now say "the lowest common denominator", which is much less ambiguous.  In your example, I would prefer "the smallest number of tourists".

In any case, none of Gustavo's or Mr Hassan's examples even mentions the word "least", and what you say cannot be applied to "less", "few", or "fewer".

I don't know why your supervisor have added 'a' before 'less'. There is no need to add it.

I agree.  We don't use an article before "less" when used as an adjective (*"a less milk than before"), but we can use one when "less" is an adverb modifying an adjective ("a less difficult path").  Also, as I said before, we can use an article with the comparative adjective "lesser" ("a lesser number of people").

I don't believe it's possible to use "less number" in a proper sentence.

Respectfully,

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