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  • Hi.

  • Welcome to www.engvid.com.

  • I'm Adam.

  • In today's video I want to talk to you about some confused words.

  • Now, these are words that are everyday words; they're actually pretty basic words, but people

  • mix them up all the time.

  • Now, this is especially important for those of you taking the IELTS test and especially

  • in Task 1 where you're going to have to compare some information in a bar graph or a pie chart, etc.

  • But it's also very useful for everybody who's learning English because we're looking at

  • the words: "lower" and "less".

  • And, again, very simple words, but mixed up all the time.

  • Now, while we're already here, I also thought I'd give you a quick look at a couple other

  • words, or three other words: "lesser", "least", and "lessen".

  • "Lessen", it sounds like the lesson you have at school or this particular lesson, but notice

  • that it is an "e", not an "o", so it's a different "lessen" and I'll talk about that in a moment.

  • So, we're going to start by looking at the function of these two words: "lower" and "less".

  • Okay?

  • The first thing to keep in mind: "Less" is the opposite of "more".

  • Okay?

  • So we're talking about a quantity, we're talking about an amount of something and we're making

  • a comparison; both of them are used to compare two things.

  • And we use "less" when we have an uncountable amount; time, money, water.

  • Okay?

  • "I have less water than she has.", "I have less time than she has." etc.

  • "Lower" is the opposite of "higher".

  • Okay?

  • "Higher", "lower", so we're talking about level; we're not talking about quantity or amount.

  • Okay?

  • That's the big difference.

  • Okay?

  • Different level or different... now, here I put "amount", and I'm not talking about

  • "amount" in terms of this amount; I'm talking about "amount" - the number, and I'm going

  • to explain that when I give you some examples.

  • When I use the word: "amount", or "number", or "rank", etc.

  • I'm going to be using the word "lower".

  • When I'm not using these words, when I'm not giving you the totality of something, then

  • I'm going to be probably talking about "less" when I'm talking about amount.

  • This will make sense in a moment, I hope.

  • So, let's start with "less", okay?

  • The first thing you need to remember is that "less" can be an adjective or an adverb.

  • As an adjective: "These days, people have less free time than they had in the past."

  • Okay?

  • How much free time now; how much free time then - the quantity: More/less.

  • In the past - less; now - more.

  • As an adverb, meaning that it's going to modify, it's going to give you some extra information

  • about the verb.

  • Here, I'm giving you extra information about the noun - that's why it's an adjective.

  • Adverb: "Tech devices cost less today than in the past."

  • So, cost less.

  • Okay?

  • So, as an adverb, we're talking about the verb.

  • "Lower" is never an adverb, and it can't be used in this way.

  • "Tech devices cost lower today" does not work because "lower" is not an adverb.

  • Okay.

  • Now, just before we get to "lower", I just want to make sure that everybody understands

  • the difference between "fewer" and "less".

  • "Less" - uncountable; "fewer" - countable.

  • So if something is countable and you're comparing the amount - "fewer".

  • "There were fewer people at this year's conference."

  • I can count how many; 10 people, 12 people, 20 people, etc.

  • I can count them, so there were fewer this year than last year.

  • Time I can't count: "Less time than last year or in the past", okay?

  • So that's "less".

  • Let's look at "lower".

  • Okay, so now we're going to look at "lower", okay?

  • "Lower" can be an adjective: "Tech devices have a lower cost today than they did 20 years ago."

  • Okay?

  • We're using it as an adjective to describe the cost, so $20, $10.

  • Here we're talking... we're not talking about amount; we're talking about level of price.

  • Right?

  • 20.

  • 10 is lower than 20-right?-in terms of level.

  • Notice, though, and this is a little bit tricky; this is where you have to get into the nuances

  • of the language.

  • Sorry.

  • "Tech companies have fewer costs today than they did 20 years ago."

  • Completely different meaning.

  • I just wanted to point this out.

  • Why can I use "fewer" here?

  • And because we're talking about cost.

  • In this sentence, "cost" means: How much does it cost the company to operate or to make

  • its products?

  • Here, "cost" means price; the price of the devices.

  • Right?

  • So make sure you know what is pointing to what, okay?

  • That's a little bit off topic, but I just wanted to mention that anyway.

  • Another thing about "lower" - it can be a verb; obviously "less" cannot.

  • "Companies are striving to lower the costs of their products."

  • Okay?

  • So, this is the main thing that separates it; you can't use "less" as a verb, you can

  • use "lower".

  • You can't use "lower" as an adverb, and you can use "less" as an adverb.

  • Let's look at a couple more examples, here.

  • "Gold is a lower-risk investment than the stock market", for example.

  • Now, here I'm using it as a compound.

  • And "lower risk", I'm talking about the risk.

  • I'm not talking about a quantity, how much risk is there; I'm talking about the level

  • of risk - high risk, low risk.

  • Right?

  • So, when we're talking about level, we're going to use "lower".

  • But: "Gold involves less risk than the stock market."

  • How much risk are you taking on when you buy gold?

  • How much risk are you taking on when you invest in the stock market?

  • So ask yourself the question: "Can I ask: 'How much?'"

  • Here: "How high of a risk am I taking?

  • How low of a risk?

  • How much risk?"

  • That's a little bit of a difference.

  • Now, might be a little bit difficult to distinguish between these two sometimes.

  • In some... in some cases you can probably use either one; but in most cases you can't.

  • So, level: high/low; quantity: much or more... yeah, much or less than that.

  • Now: "Polyester is a lower-quality material."

  • Here you have to be careful.

  • "...a lower-quality material", so the "a" goes with "material" obviously; "quality"

  • goes with "material"; "lower" tells you something about "quality".

  • Now, here we're not comparing two different things.

  • I'm not comparing the, let's say, polyester and cotton; I'm comparing... i'm giving an

  • idea of the level of quality: high quality/low quality; not how much quality.

  • Okay?

  • So that's another thing you have to be careful.

  • If I'm using the actual word about the leveller... as I mentioned before, there was quality,

  • amount, number, rate, etc.

  • If I'm actually using that word in the sentence, I'm always going to use "lower"; not "less".

  • "A lower amount of money".

  • If I want to use "less", I just say: "less money"; I don't need to use the word "amount".

  • "A lower number of people" or "fewer people".

  • Now, if you want to count numbers... so, there's a conference, and every year a certain number

  • of people come, but over the last few years there has been fewer numbers of people coming

  • to the event, so fewer numbers.

  • But if I'm just using number, then I'm going to use "lower".

  • Amount - lower, quality - lower, rate - lower, rank - lower; not less, because these are

  • levellers, basically, we're talking about.

  • We're talking about the thing we use to count with; not the thing we use to count the amount,

  • like measure the amounts with.

  • Okay?

  • I hope this is a little bit clear; but again, this is the main ones: "lower" versus "less".

  • Now I'm going to give you a bit of a bonus with: "lessen", "lesser", and "least".

  • Let's look at those.

  • Okay, so now we're going to look at these few words: "Lesser", "lessen", and "least".

  • Let's start with "lesser".

  • "Lesser" basically means "less", but we're talking about quality or degree.

  • Okay?

  • So: "Item A is of a lesser quality."

  • You could say: "...of a lower quality", and that's fine, too.

  • So you can... you can mix "lower" and "lesser", but not "lower" and "less".

  • Okay?

  • That's where English gets a little bit confusing.

  • So, "lesser" is about degree or quality, and then you can mix it.

  • But this is a much more or... sorry, I should say less-commonly-used word, and therefore

  • if... again, this is for the IELTS-takers: If you're going to be writing and you can

  • use words that are not commonly used, your score goes up if you do... if you use them

  • correctly, right?

  • And the same with "lessen", which I'll talk about.

  • A very common expression: "The lesser of two evils", so you have to make a choice about

  • whatever-politics, business, friendship, anything at all-choice A - bad; choice B - bad, so

  • you're going to choose the one that is less bad, so we call this: "The lesser of two evils".

  • And this is another thing to remember: When you...

  • whenever we use "lesser", it either means less quality or less degree, or you can compare

  • two things and one is less something than the other, but very specifically about these

  • two things.

  • Right?

  • So: "The lesser of the two evils" is whatever; choice A.

  • "Jim presents a lesser target than Tom."

  • Okay?

  • So, again, let's say politics and we have... i have two people that I want to use as a

  • communications or spokesperson to go in front of the cameras and speak to the media.

  • And then I'm thinking: "Okay, well, the media can be pretty mean sometimes.

  • Right?

  • They're going to attack one of these guys.

  • Which of these two guys is less of a target?"

  • So: "Jim is the lesser target" or "Jim presents", you could say, well, a smaller target means

  • physically smaller.

  • So: "Jim is less of a target than Tom" - both of them work.

  • And then I'm using the "be" verb.

  • Here I'm using an active verb, and that's one of the differences.

  • If you can use "lesser" correctly, your IELTS score goes up.

  • Same with "lessen".

  • "Lessen" is a verb-okay?-sounds exactly the same as "lesson" with an "o", okay?

  • "Lessen" - to make less.

  • Now, most people use "reduce" or "mitigate", and especially IELTS-takers love this word:

  • "mitigate"; I see it all the time, because it's a word that's relatively easy to memorize,

  • it means to make less, and especially when you're talking about a negative thing; to

  • mitigate the pain, mitigate the harm.

  • Now, what's the problem?

  • No problem.

  • If you want to use "mitigate", use it.

  • But in the essay especially: Don't use it more than once.

  • Remember: Vocabulary variety or range is one of the scores you're getting there; don't

  • use it more than once.

  • If you need another word, you can use "reduce".

  • But "lessen" is a word that is not commonly used.

  • Native speakers all know it; they... if you use it, everybody will understand it, but

  • it's still not commonly used; people just prefer to use "make less" or "reduce".

  • In the IELTS, use "lessen" and your score goes up because you're using less-common words.

  • Right?

  • "We need to lessen the harm of this policy."

  • So we had... the government has a new policy; and yes, some people will get hurt, but overall

  • it's a good policy.

  • So what we need to do is keep the policy but somehow lessen the harm that it will do to

  • some members of the population.

  • Okay.

  • "We need to reduce the harm", "We need to lessen the harm", "We need to mitigate the

  • harm" - all okay.

  • Sorry, another thing I wanted to say about the IELTS: The graders know that everybody

  • is memorizing words, and this is one of the words that most people, for some reason, like

  • to memorize and use.

  • You will surprise them by using this correctly.

  • Do that.

  • Okay?

  • And "least".

  • "Least" is the superlative; "less" is the comparative.

  • Comparative - two things; "least" - three or more things.

  • And we're talking about the lowest amount of something.

  • Right?

  • "Company A presents the least risk among all the group."

  • "We have many concerns, the least of which", so the minimal.

  • Right?

  • We have many concerns, but the one that is the... the... not the worst, basically.

  • It's... they're all bad, they're all concerns, but the one that is not that bad is whatever

  • - that's the least of which.

  • Okay?

  • "Sure, there are problems" - we created a new product, and: "Sure, there are problems,

  • but at least it works."

  • So that's a very common expression: "at least" - means minimal.

  • Right?

  • So there's a minimal positive to whatever the negative is.

  • Right?

  • And that's why we use "at least"; very good expression.

  • So, I hope you understood how to use these words; very useful, especially for those of

  • you taking the IELTS Task 1 and even the essay - use these words.

  • If you have any questions about them, please go to www.engvid.com and you can ask me there

  • in the comment section.

  • There's also a quiz to make sure you understand how to use all of these words, especially

  • "lower" versus "less", so take that quiz.

  • And if you like this video, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and come back for more

  • lessons on grammar, vocab, all this good stuff.

  • I'll see you then.