Do we say the least number of tourists or the fewest number of tourists?

When I searched for it, I found the least number of tourists but I also found the fewest number of pages then I was confused I don't know why we use the least and the fewest followed by the same word "number".


Few refers to a very small subset (of another set, here "tourists").

Least can be paraphrased as "lowest". "Least" can modify "number": the lowest number.

number of X refers to the count of items in set X.

The most direct grammatical form is

the fewest tourists

Another grammatical possibility is

the lowest|least number of tourists

Although here and there you will encounter the phrase "fewest number of X", it is an outlier which many native speakers consider ungrammatical, even if there are some who use it.

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  • I don't get it . You didn't tell me why we use " the least number of tourists " but we use " the fewest number of pages ." If I say " the fewest number of tourists , will it be incorrect?" – Heba Esmail Oct 16 '17 at 13:14
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    You don't get it. That is correct. Please reread the answer. If there are any words you do not understand, please look them up, or ask. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 16 '17 at 13:47
  • TRomano, why not "the smallest number of tourists"? – SovereignSun Nov 20 '17 at 7:04
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    @SovereignSun: "smallest number of" is not ungrammatical. fewest is the most 'direct' in that it does not interpose another noun between the quantifier and the plural set noun. lowest|least|smallest|tiniest number of X are all grammatically possible but might be avoided on stylistic grounds. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 20 '17 at 11:28
  • I don't get your first sentence Few refers to a very small subset (of another set, here "tourists"). – Viser Hashemi May 18 '18 at 20:13

We never say "least number of something" as less/least is for uncountable nouns and money, time, weight, distance, population.

For percentages we use other rules more specific.

However, we say fewest number of "something" for something that is countable, like people, tourists, oranges, etc.

Or lowest number of "something" if this "something" is number itself, like 3, 65, 8648.

We say least amount of something, for example least amount of money, where money is uncountable.

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