A Couple of Things You Should Know

Traditionally, the word couple has been used as a noun meaning “two things.” As a noun, it requires the use of the preposition of to link it to another noun:

  • I only have a couple of dollars.
  • It will take a couple of hours to get this done.

Sometimes writers forget that little preposition, and use couple as an adjective, such as in “I tried a couple times to reach her.”

Bryan Garner, in his American usage book, says, “Using couple as an adjective directly before the noun is unidiomatic and awkward.” Even though many people leave out of, it’s not something a writer should do unless it’s deliberate and in character in fiction.

Even though this may sound off to your ear, these sentences are correct:

  • A couple of things need to be said about this problem.
  • I can upgrade your car for a couple of thousand dollars.
  • Only a couple of dozen people saw the murder.

However, when couple is used with comparison words such as more, fewer, and too many, the of is omitted:

  • Eat a couple more crackers if you feel queasy.

I would give you a couple more examples if a couple of you asked me to.

One Response to “A Couple of Things You Should Know”

  1. Carrie Lynn Lewis May 1, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    (Chuckling) I had no idea of the double uses for the word “couple”. I’m guilty of using it in the “couple crackers” you cited at the end of the post. Rarely do I use the word to mean two!

    How did we reach the point of using a word which so clearly denotes “two” to mean a few?

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