I always find situations such as this terribly awkward. Would it be a faux pas to highlight her mistake in front of the others or would I be doing her a favour?
Editors often face these social dilemmas – do we be polite and ignore grammatical gaffes or do we blurt out corrections and risk being labelled a ‘grammar Nazi’? The result is often internal tension that can only be released by strange grimaces and mutterings under the breath.
I needn’t have worried. As I wrestled with my inner trainer, the Treasurer – an accountant by profession, and Dutch to boot – roared out ‘Fewer!’ Everyone turned to look, then several people stammered, ‘Yes – thank you. I didn’t like to say anything but …’. Phew. I’d been let off the hook.
As I tell my son, if you can count them, it’s fewer; if it’s uncountable (butter, time, courage), it’s less.