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From the following sentences, which one is more grammatically correct?

  • Carbohydrates in diet need less amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.
  • Carbohydrates in diet need lesser amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats

I personally think the second one should be correct because we are comparing carbohydrates to fats and proteins.

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1

Neither is quite right. In general, you would probably want to say either

Carbohydrates in the diet need less water in comparison to proteins and fats.

or

Carbohydrates in the diet need a smaller amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.

At a stretch, you might possibly say

Carbohydrates in the diet need a lesser amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.

but it sounds less idiomatic than the other two options.


You've hit upon a rather tricky part of English, the usage of less vs lesser vs smaller. In general, you can compare uncountable or mass nouns (like water) using the word less:

There is less milk in my glass than in yours. The water is less than one inch deep.

You use smaller to compare countable nouns:

My glass is smaller than yours. I want the smaller cookie, please.

In your sentence, you have the countable, compound noun [an] amount of water. Because it is countable, you need to have an article in there, and you need to use the comparative term smaller:

Carbohydrates in the1 diet need a smaller amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.

Alternatively, you could drop the phrase [an] amount and have just the mass/uncountable noun water (which doesn't need an article), in which case you would use the term less for comparison:

Carbohydrates in the diet need less a̶m̶o̶u̶n̶t̶ ̶o̶f water in comparison to proteins and fats.


So why not lesser?

Lesser is a more specialized case. For one thing, it can only be used attributively (right before a noun), and only with count nouns. When we use it comparatively, it most often refers to quality or importance rather than quantity:

Joe is a lesser man than Pete.
Titus Andronicus is often regarded as one of Shakespeare's lesser works.

It can be used to refer to quantity, but only with a few specialized count nouns of amount or quantity:

I like raspberries and, to a lesser degree, strawberries.
There is a lesser amount of money invested in Plan A than in Plan B.
A lesser number of citizens are voting nowadays than in years past.

However, while all of these are to some extent grammatical, only the first sounds fully idiomatic to my ear; for the rest, I would prefer to replace lesser with smaller. An Ngram comparing usage suggests this trend is widespread:

Google Ngram comparing lesser amount,lesser number,lesser degree,smaller amount,smaller number,smaller degree

1 The word diet is countable, so it needs an article here. You could also use a possessive pronoun: Carbohydrates in your diet.

So while you could use it, smaller probably sounds better.

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Carbohydrates in diet need less amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates in diet need lesser amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats.

Neither one is grammatically correct since diet is a countable noun and you're not comparing carbs to proteins and fats taken together. In comparison to is also needlessly verbose, leaving aside that it should really be with. The grammatically correct phrasing would be

Dietary carbohydrates need less water than proteins or fats.

Dietary carbohydrates need a lesser amount of water than proteins or fats.

Even then, neither sentence really makes sense. You should explain to the reader: ...need less water to/for what?

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  • 2
    While you've fixed the problems in your example sentences, I don't think you explain very well what you did to fix them or what they were. For example, why didn't you just use an article to fix the countable noun problem? "Carbohydrates in a diet need..." Also what happened to "amount"? Why is it there for lesser and not there for less? The question is about "less" and "lesser" but your answer doesn't really discuss either.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 6 '17 at 13:35
  • @ColleenV Feel free to reread the question and reread the answer, which answered it. Both were grammatically incorrect and less/lesser had nothing to do with the problem(s).
    – lly
    Apr 6 '17 at 14:44
  • To address the specific requests, though, carbohydrates in a diet establishes a contrast with carbohydrates outside a diet which is bizarre→nonsensical. Kat intended dietary or carbohydrates in your/one's diet. Dietary is terser. Similarly, amount is necessary to make water countable when using lesser but is inappropriate for less.
    – lly
    Apr 6 '17 at 14:48
  • 3
    It's just a suggestion for improving your answer that you can use or not use as you choose. I already know the answer to the questions in my comment. I wanted to point out that the author highlighted that less and lesser is what was confusing them (in their title) and you don't really explain the difference at all.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 6 '17 at 15:24
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The use of less or lesser can be used in this sentence with minor grammatical changes.

Use of Less

Carbohydrates in diet need less water in comparison to proteins and fats

Use of Lesser

Carbohydrates in diet need a lesser amount of water in comparison to proteins and fats

In the context, the second option would be better.

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  • Welcome to ELL.SE. As with lly, you've provided a correction, but without any explanation either of what you've corrected or why you consider the second option to be better. As a reminder, StackExchange seeks definitive answers to questions. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance.
    – choster
    Apr 6 '17 at 16:00
  • Thanks for having the decency for providing a reason for the down vote. Agreed, my answer was not sufficiently specific.
    – Simon
    Apr 6 '17 at 16:15
  • FWIW, I did not downvote.
    – choster
    Apr 6 '17 at 16:32

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