The term “couple” and the phrase a “couple of” are very similar. Because of this, folks are often confused over which is the correct term or phrase to use, and when. Therefore, we will be discussing both in this article, their specific meanings, and their overall use.
Is It “Couple” Or “Couple Of”?
Strictly speaking, the term “couple” means a pair, two, a couple, or to be combined. It is usually preceded by the article “a”. On the other hand, “a couple of” is considered to be an idiom, with the meaning of a small number of, or a few.
Therefore, both the term “couple” and the phrase a “couple of” carry appropriate meanings. While using either or will generally not come across as grammatically incorrect or confusing to an audience, in a formal setting, we should try to use “couple” and “a couple of” accordingly.
When Should I Use “Couple Of”?
We should use the phrase a “couple of” when we are meaning to express a grouping of roughly two or three, as opposed to conveying a pair or only two. We use a “couple of” very consistently to how we would use a “few of”.
We should also keep in mind that, generally speaking, a “couple of” is considered to be informal and an idiom. Therefore, it is important to use it in the proper context – especially in a professional setting.
When looking at Cambridge Dictionary, we can see that “couple of” is defined as two or a few things that are similar or the same, or two or a few people who are in some way connected.
We will now go over some examples that appropriately use “couple of” in a sentence:
- I have a couple of tasks to complete before I go to bed tonight.
- I think that I’ve seen her a couple of times before.
- He managed to get a couple of hours of sleep.
- We traveled there on vacation a couple of years ago now.
- He gave the jug a couple of shakes before pouring the orange juice.
- A couple of victories would improve the team’s morale greatly.
- I’m trying to get a couple of extra days off for my vacation period.
- I’ve tried calling her a couple of times now throughout the day.
- I feel like he’s grown a couple of inches over this past school year.
- She edged past a couple of bystanders in the concert crowd to get to the bathroom.
When Should I Use “Couple”?
We should use the term “couple” when we are strictly speaking about or describing two and only two people, places, things, etc. This is because the term “couple” refers to a pair – generally, two people who are married, engaged, or in a romantic relationship.
When looking at Cambridge Dictionary, we can see that “couple” is defined as two people who are married or in a romantic or sexual relationship, or two people who are together for a particular purpose. Also, the term “couple” is highlighted as meaning to join or combine.
Here are a few examples of how we can accurately use the term “couple” in a sentence:
- An American couple just moved in next door and they seem very nice.
- That couple lives in perfect harmony.
- The couple made several unsuccessful attempts to save their marriage.
- The young couple fell in love at first sight.
- The gas station and restaurant were coupled together for truck drivers.
- An elderly couple lives next door and we try to help them when we can.
- We couple the cost of the tires with the usual installation fee.
- We’re having two couples over for dinner this evening.
- The young couple next door is constantly arguing with one another.
- Police were uncovering the last living moments of the murdered couple.
Are “Couple Of” And “Couple” Interchangeable?
While most will not note a difference conversationally, we should try not to use a “couple of” and “couple” interchangeably. This is because “couple” strictly refers to two, while we use a “couple of” to refer to roughly two or three – similarly to “a few”.
Is It “A Couple Of Minutes” Or “A Couple Minutes”?
We should choose to use the phrase “a couple of minutes” as opposed to “a couple minutes”. This is because “a couple of minutes” is grammatically correct and carries the appropriate meaning of roughly two or three minutes, whereas “a couple minutes” is informal and slang.
Here is an example that highlights the correct and incorrect use of these phrases:
- Correct: I will be a couple of minutes late for the meeting.
- Incorrect: I will be a couple minutes late for the meeting.
Is It “A Couple Of Months” Or “A Couple Months”?
We should choose to use the phrase “a couple of months” as it is considered grammatically correct. We will use “a couple of months” when we are speaking about approximately two or three months, whereas “a couple months” is incorrect and highly informal.
We will now be looking over this correct and incorrect example of how to use these two phrases:
- Correct: We are thinking about booking a vacation in a couple of months.
- Incorrect: We are thinking about booking a vacation in a couple months.
Is It “A Couple Of Things” Or “A Couple Things”?
The phrase “a couple of things” is correct and applicable for use. We will use “a couple of things” when we’re discussing a few of or roughly two or three things, whereas “a couple things” should be considered slang or highly informal.
Here is an example that we can look over, showing the correct and incorrect use of these phrases:
- Correct: I have a couple of things to accomplish throughout the day.
- Incorrect: I have a couple things to accomplish throughout the day.
Is It “A Couple Of Questions” Or “A Couple Questions”?
We can use the phrase “a couple of questions” as it is grammatically correct and formal. We’ll use “a couple of questions” when we have a few of or roughly two or three questions to ask, whereas “a couple questions” is slang and would be considered unprofessional.
We can now look over the following examples of how to correctly and incorrectly use these phrases:
- Correct: I have a couple of questions to ask your teacher in regards to the school year.
- Incorrect: I have a couple questions to ask your teacher in regards to the school year.
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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.