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5

Common mistakes

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They have fewer books than I have.
They have less books than I have.

Less denotes amount, quantity, value, or degree, fewer denotes number. We may have less water, less food, less money, less education, but fewer books, fewer letters, fewer friends.

We say less than (five, six, etc.) pounds because the pounds are considered as a sum of money and not as a number of coins.

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I'm two years younger than you.
I'm two years smaller than you
She's three years older than me.
She's three years bigger than me.

If reference is to age, say young or old. Small and big usually refer to size: He is big (or small) for his age.

Great refers to the importance of a person or thing: Napoleon was a great man, Homer's Iliad is a great book. Use great with words like distance, height, length, depth: There is a great distance between the earth and the moon. Informally, use great to mean something nice or good: We watched a great concert last night.

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My elder brother is six feet tall.
My elder brother is six feet high.

We generally use tall with people, and it's the opposite of short. Use high when referring to trees, buildings, or mountains, and it's the opposite of low.

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Turn the page for farther instructions.
Turn the page for further instructions

Use further to mean both greater distance and more of something. We only use farther for distances: I live a bit farther away than you. Don't use it to mean more. We use further for both meanings in modern English.

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Look at that dog across the street!
Look at this dog across the street!

This is used to indicate something physically close to the speaker. In the case of abstract things we use this for things which are most immediately present. This is a lovely song! I'll help you do it this time. When we talk about more than one thing we use this for the closer or more immediate and that for the further away or more remote in time. If we're only talking about one thing we usually use that: What's that noise? That's a nice coat! Don't do that!

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