You may have come across a question regarding whether you should use “Couple of hours” or “Couple hours”. This might especially be because it is hard for us to hear which one is used when speaking. Below we will go through the correct usage so that you will no longer be in doubt.
Couple Of Hours Vs Couple Hours: Here’s The Correct Version
Most of the time, it’s best to say a “couple OF hours”. However, although “couple hours” is grammatically incorrect, it doesn’t matter too much as people still know what you mean.
However, the differences between a “couple something” and a “couple of something” are debated among linguists and English language experts.
What is the meaning of “Couple of hours”
First of all, we need to define what a “couple of hours” means.
We know that a couple means two. And an hour is 60 minutes. Therefore, a couple of hours is two 60-minutes or 120 minutes.
But anyone who knows about people will know that when we say “a couple of hours”, we don’t always mean exactly two hours, we mean anywhere between 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours.
So the phrase “couple of hours” is semi-flexible. But not so flexible that one minute or a whole day counts as a “couple of hours”.
A phrase’s literal meaning is not always what we mean when we use it.
Is it ever correct to use “Couple hours”
There are times when you might not hear “a couple of hours” but a “couple hours”. Some would say that this is always wrong, but others would say that it can be correct under some circumstances.
According to some linguists, when we say “couple” without the “of”, we mean exactly two. Not one and a half. Not two and a tiny bit. But exactly two.
A “lovely couple” is two people. “Give him a couple” means give him two.
These people would say that a “couple of hours” means between 1 and a half to two hours. But a “couple hours” means exactly two hours.
Others disagree and say that a “couple hours” is always wrong.
10 examples of “couple of hours”
“Sorry for all the delays today. I’ll be home in a couple of hours, and then we can watch that film you’ve been talking about”.
“We’ll be over in a couple of hours to fix your plumbing. Usually we’d take at least 12 hours, but because we understand your situation, we’ll be willing to shorten that time”
“He’s only gone to go clothes shopping. He shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours. When he gets back, we can all go to the park”
“It will take me a couple of hours to get into London. But when I do, we can meet at the Churchill statue, and then make our way over to the London eye”
“I’ll have it done in a couple of hours. But I’m afraid I’m very busy at the moment and I do have a lot on my plate. But this is important so I’ll get it done as soon as I can”
“It’s still going to be a couple of hours before it’s over. Until then, you just have to bite your tongue, and do your best”
“This film goes on for a couple of hours. If we go to it that late, everywhere will be shut by the time it finishes”
“It did take me a couple of hours, but I finally finished cooking that large feast that everyone was so keen on. We’ve got 5 courses, and drinks”
“It takes a couple of hours to walk around the city. It’s not as big as some people seem to think it is”
“He was only in custody for a couple of hours. They had to let me go when there was no evidence for the crime they had accused me of”
Couple of hours: Synonyms
As we’ve already established, a “couple of hours” does not always mean exactly 120 minutes. Because it’s not a mathematical term, there are synonyms we could use instead. Here are a few of them…
- I’ll be with you in a few hours
- I’ll be with you in less than three hours
- I’ll be with you in about two or so hours
- It will be at least an hour
- She finishes in 1 to 3 hours
- It will happen in less time than it takes to cook a three-course meal
And there we have it. Now you know the difference between a “couple of hours” and a “couple hours”. Or at least, what various people say the difference is.
Next time you’ll take between 90 and 150 minutes, you’ll know that you should include the “of”. But, much like most of the English language, what was said in this article is not set in stone and it might change over time.
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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.