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# lower/less -- more/greater contradictions on official GMAT

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Manager
Joined: 26 Apr 2011
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25 Nov 2011, 13:50
I just went through 5 retired official GMAT tests and found all of these as being correct:

1) Machines cost banks less.
2) Energy costs are lower at night.
3) The costs of getting the inventory are greater
4) The number of students is much lower than...
5) There was a lower rate of bank failure
6) Had a greater rate rate of return

- Assuming #1 is correct and "cost" is uncountable, #2 is contradicted
- greater and less are birds of a feather so, if #3 is correct, two points for "costs" being uncountable, one point for not being.
- #4 contradicts the rule that "the number" is an exception to the "greater/less" uncountable rule (it is ok to "the number 10 is greater than the number 9).
- If #5 is correct and "rate" is countable, then #6 is contradicted
Magoosh GMAT Instructor
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30 Dec 2011, 13:19
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Expert's post
First, let's set up some rules for less vs. lower and more vs. greater:

"less" and "more" are used for comparisons of uncountable nouns: "I have much more work today", "I have much less work than you".

"lower" and "greater" are just the comparative versions of "low" and "great", so just like any other comparative word ("taller", "smarter", etc.), they can only be used for things that can be low or great to begin with: "Can you turn the volume lower?" (since "the volume is too low" is perfectly acceptable), "The number of students in the audience was much greater today" ("a great number of students" is also fine). It may seem a little strange to consider the noun "number" as "great", but because we use "greater than" to compare numbers in everyday speech much as we do in math, "great" can be used to refer to numbers.

As you've discovered, the countable/uncountable distinction can get a little fuzzy, so I recommend using this rule if it's more natural for you to test whether using "lower" or "greater" is acceptable in any given context:
Is "X is low/great" grammatical? If yes, then "X is lower/greater" is grammatical as well.

stringworm wrote:
1) Machines cost banks less.

Here, "less" doesn't refer to "cost", since "cost" is used as a verb in this sentence. The best way to look at this sentence is to assume there's an implied object: Machines cost banks less [money]. Money is uncountable ("I need more money", not "I need 5 more moneys"), as opposed to something like dollars, which are countable.

stringworm wrote:
2) Energy costs are lower at night.
3) The costs of getting the inventory are greater
4) The number of students is much lower than...
5) There was a lower rate of bank failure
6) Had a greater rate rate of return

You'll notice that all of these confusing ones are referring to pretty math-y nouns ("cost", "number", and "rate") that can all be described as "low" or "great", which is why we can use "lower"/"greater" consistently.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and I'd be happy to help!
_________________

Margarette
Magoosh Test Prep

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06 Jan 2012, 17:14
That was very helpful. Thank you.
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27 Apr 2012, 03:57
If you have any specific SC ques, please do post.

More is used for both countable and uncountable.
e.g. I have more pens than Ana
My glass has more juice than Ana's glass
Re: lower/less -- more/greater contradictions on official GMAT   [#permalink] 27 Apr 2012, 03:57
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