fewer and less

Fewer is the comparative of few (used before plural nouns)
Less is the comparative of little (used before uncountable nouns which are singular)

  • few problems/ fewer problems
  • little money/ less money
  • I’ve got fewer problems than I used to have
  • I earn less money than a postman.

In informal English, some people use less with plural words

  • I’ve got less problems than I used to have.

Like and as

Like = ‘similar to’, ‘the same as’.

  • What a beautiful house! It’s like a palace, (not as a palace)
  • ‘What does Sandra do?’   ‘She’s a teacher, like me.’ (not as me)
  • Be careful! The floor has been polished. It’s like walking on ice. (not as walking)
  • It’s raining again. I hate weather like this, (not as this)

In these sentences, like is a preposition.
So it is followed by a noun (like a palace), a pronoun (like me / like this) or -ing (like walking).

You can also say ‘… like (somebody/something) doing something’:

  • ‘What’s that noise? ‘It sounds like a baby crying.”

Sometimes like = for example:

  • Some sports, like motor-racing, can be dangerous.

You can also use such as (= for example):

  • Some sports, such as motor-racing, can be dangerous.

As = in the same way as, or in the same condition as.

We use as before subject + verb:

  • I didn’t move anything. I left everything as it was.
  • You should have done it as I showed you.

Like is also possible in informal spoken English:

  • I left everything like it was.

Compare as and like:

  • You should have done it as I showed you. (or like I showed you)
  • You should have done it like this, (not as this)

Note that we say as usual / as always:

  • You’re late as usual.
  • As always, Nick was the first to complain.

Sometimes as (+ subject + verb) has other meanings.

For example, after do:

  • You can do as you like. (= do what you like)
  • They did as they promised. (= They did what they promised.)

We also say as you know / as I said / as she expected / as I thought etc. :

  • As you know, it’s Emma’s birthday next week. (= you know this already)
  • Andy failed his driving test, as he expected. (= he expected this before)

Like is not usual in these expressions, except with say (like I said):

  • □As I said yesterday, I’m sure we can solve the problem,   or Like I said yesterday …

As can also be a preposition, but the meaning is different from like.

  • Sue Casey is the manager of a company.
    As the manager, she has to make many important decisions.
    (As the manager = in her position as the manager)
  • Mary Stone is the assistant manager.
    Like the manager (Sue Casey), she also has to make important decisions.
    (Like the manager = similar to the manager.)

As (preposition) = in the position of, in the form of etc. :

  • A few years ago I worked as a taxi driver, (not like a taxi driver)
  • We haven’t got a car, so we use the garage as a workshop.
  • Many words, for example ‘work’ and ‘rain’, can be used as verbs or nouns.
  • London is fine as a place to visit, but I wouldn’t like to live there.
  • The news of the tragedy came as a great shock.

big, large, great and tall- high

1.We use big mostly in an informal style.

  • We’ve got a big new house.
  • Get your big feet off my flowers.
  • That’s a really big improvement.
  • You’re making a big mistake.

In a more formal style, we prefer large or great.

Large is used with concrete nouns (the names of things you can see, touch, etc).

Great is used with abstract nouns (the names of ideas etc).

  • It was a large house situated near the river.
  • I’m afraid my daughter has rather large feet
  • Her work showed a great improvement last year.

With uncountable nouns, only great is possible.

  • There was great confusion about the dates. (NOT . . . big confusion . . .)
  • I felt great excitement as the meeting came nearer.

2. Tall is used to talk about vertical height (from top to bottom). It is mostly used for people; sometimes for buildings and trees. 

  • ‘How tall are you?’ ‘One metre ninety-one.’

3.We also use great to mean ‘famous’ or ‘important’.

  • Do you think Napoleon was really a great man?
  • Newton was probably the greatest scientist who ever lived.

4.We sometimes use great to mean ‘wonderful’ (very informal).

  • I’ve had a great idea!
  • How’s the new job?’ ‘Great.’
  • It’s a great car.

5. Note that large is a ‘false friend’ for people who speak some European languages. It does not mean the same as wide.

  • The river is a hundred metres wide. (NOT . . . metres large)

6. tall and high

a We use tall for things which are this shape:

We can talk about tall people, trees, and sometimes buildings.

  • How tall are you9 (NOT How high are you?)
  • There are some beautiful tall trees at the end of our garden.

We do not use tall for things which are this shape, We use high.

  • Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe (NOT . . . the tallest mountain.)
  • It’s a very high room. (NOT . . . tall room.)

b We use high to say how far something is above the ground.

  • A child standing on a chair may be higher than his father, but not taller.

c Parts of the body are long, not tall.

  • She’s got beautiful long legs. (NOT tall legs.)

hear and listen (to)

1. Hear is the ordinary word to say that something ‘comes to our ears’

  • Suddenly I heard a strange noise
  • Can you hear me?
  • Did you hear the Queen’s speech yesterday?

Hear is not used in progressive tenses. When we want to say that we hear something at the moment of speaking, we often use can hear.

  • I can hear somebody coming. (not I am hearing)

2. We use listen (to) to talk about concentrating, paying attention, trying to hear as well as possible.


  • I heard them talking in the next room, but I didn’t really listen to what they were saying.
  • Listen carefully please’ ‘Could you speak a bit louder? I can’t hear you very well’

We use listen when there is no object, and listen to before an object.


  • Listen! (Not Listen to)
  • Listen to me! (Not Listen me)

small and little

Small is used just to talk about size. It is opposite of large

  • Could I have a small brandy, please.
  • You’re too small to be a policeman.

The adjective little is used to talk about
size + emotion

If we call something little, we usually have some sort of feeling about it-
we like it, or we dislike it, or it makes us laugh, or we think it is sweet.

  • Poor little thing- come here and let me look after you.
  • What’s he like? Oh, he’s a funny little man.
  • What’s that nasty little boy doing in our garden?
  • They’ve bought a pretty little house in the country.

Little is not usually used after a verb.