The standard rule of using less and fewer is pretty basic: Fewer is used for items that you can count, and less is for items that you cannot count.
For example, you want fewer lima beans, but you want less stress. Lima beans are countable, while we cannot quantify stress. You can have fewer bowls of soup, but less soup.
So why are there so many exceptions? This is based on the original rule that less is used with singular nouns and fewer is to be used with plural nouns. Money, time and distance are often the exceptions to the "count it" rule. You can count mileage, dollars, and minutes, but they all take less. This is because they are treated as singular nouns, not plural.
Another exception to the fewer and less rule is the phrase 'or less'. This is often a topic regarding the '12 items or less' in markets. While the correct language should be '12 items or fewer', it has been used for so long (when King Alfred, who advocated for the use of English over Latin, used it in 888) that it is a standard exception to the rule.
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