People often say “a few days” when asked how long something is going to take. But how long is a few days? Two days? Three? Five?
In this post, we will cover how long most people mean when they say “a few days”.
How Long Is “A Few Days”?
While there is no official consensus on the exact number of days being described by “a few days”, this phrase is generally considered to refer to a length of three or four days. Most people say “several days” if they mean five or more.
However, while this is generally the case, it isn’t always. The phrase “a few” is very vague. All it really means is “not a lot”, but as for what “not a lot” entails, that’s up to the individual. Some people might consider “few” to be as little as two of something. Others might consider it to be five.
So there’s a lot of leeway for some other distinction besides two or three days. After all, “a few days” has to compete with other vague descriptions of time and size, such as “a couple of days” and “several days”. Different people have different ideas of what all of these phrases mean.
That being the case, there is no way to be absolutely certain that someone means three or four days when they say “a few days”. The only way to know that is if you ask them outright how long they really meant.
Anything else is an assumption at best.
It is a reasonable assumption, though; the vast majority of English speakers mean three or four days when they say “a few days”.
Is It Correct to Say “A Few Days”?
The phrase “a few days” is grammatically correct and proper English. It’s just vague, is all.
Of course, in some situations, vagueness is exactly what someone needs, and is exactly why people use this phrase in the first place.
Consider a situation in which someone asks you how long something will take. You have a rough idea of how long it will take, that being three to four days, but you do not know how long things will take exactly. It’s impossible for you to give an exact answer in this situation.
But with a phrase like “a few days”, you don’t have to give an exact answer. You can simply provide a vague one that gives someone a rough idea of a length of time, but not an exact time. “A few days” is appropriate in any situation similar to this example.
A Few Days vs. Few Days
The correct form of this phrase is “a few days”.
Unlike some other phrases, which can be said improperly and still sound alright to most people, you cannot do this with “a few days”. You would always include the article “a” in this phrase. You would never say “few days” by itself.
That’s because you need articles like “a” to precede nouns in English. In this phrase, “days” is the noun, and “few” is a quantifier. Consider the following sentences:
- Correct: I will deliver your package in a few days.
- Incorrect: I will deliver your package in few days.
Hopefully, that second sentence sounds terribly wrong to you. That’s because you are cutting out an article before a noun, which you can only do in niche situations. This is not one of those situations. Always say “a few days”, not “few days” in a sentence.
“A few days” has no set definition in the English language. It is only taken to mean “a relatively small number of days”. For most people, this means three or four days, but not everyone perceives the phrase in the same way. Some people may feel that “a few days” could be five days or more.
However, most English speakers feel that “a few days” refers specifically to three or four days. It is a safe assumption, but if you want to be sure, you should always ask someone how long they mean exactly.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.