a couple days vs. a couple <of> days

Discussion in 'English Only' started by nasridine, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. nasridine Senior Member

    Chinese, China
    I used to think "a couple of days" is right, but the other day I saw "a couple days" in a novel. Are these two both right?
    Besides, "a couple of hundred" or "a couple hundred"
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In BE, it should be a couple of ...
  3. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    Hi nasridine,

    In your first example, the apostrophe has replaced "of". It's called a genitive expression http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genitive_case (see "Objective Genitive")

    a couple of days of work = a couple days' work
    three days of pay = three days' pay

    In the second example, it's the difference between written and spoken English:

    a couple of hundred guests: correct, written English

    a couple hundred guests : informal, spoken English
  4. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I have only heard USAmericans drop 'of' in such sentences.
    It sounds truncated to an Aussie ear.

  5. Kevman Senior Member

    Phoenix, Arizona
    USA English
    It's okay to drop the 'of' in American English. To me "a couple of days" and "a couple days" are interchangeable, but for some reason, "a couple hundred" sounds better than "a couple of hundred". I have no idea why!

    Although, after further reflection, "a couplea hundred" (where the 'of' is reduced to 'a' [pronounced "uh"] and suffixed onto 'couple') sounds fine to me in spoken discourse. You'll only see something like this in writing if someone is really trying to transcribe the dialect, so I probably didn't spell it very well.
  6. Kevman says that "a couple hundred" sounds better than "a couple of hundred." Can anybody explain why?
  7. MJRupeJM Senior Member

    English- U.S.
    I think the key is sounds--"a couple hundred" is probably more common in spoken AE than "a couple of hundred."
  8. Aidanriley

    Aidanriley Senior Member

    SD, California
    A couple hundred = two-hundred. For that reason, both sound wrong to me. We use a couple.. rather than a couple of.. here in AE, usually.
  9. Morgan Pierce New Member

    American English
    I agree with Aidanriley. In American English, "a couple hundred" means 200 (formally-written) and "around 200" (informally-spoken). "A couple of hundred" sounds even worse because it is saying, "a couple of 100"...meaning a set of 100x2, which is verbose. To clarify, Americans don't take these statements literally. When someone says "a couple hundred people", it can be assumed that the number of people will be closer to 200 than 100 or 300, but nobody actually takes it literally. Additionally, the rapport of the person telling you the number and the context will dictate how you perceive it. A club promoter telling a DJ that "a couple hundred" people are going to show up might be worrisome, whereas saying "200+" would be much more reassuring.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
  10. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    Some AE speakers don't agree with this. To me, dropping the "of" is an error made by uneducated speakers, though I agree it's not rare in spoken American English. Maybe its acceptability is regional. The northeast part of the U.S. is more traditional about many things than other parts are.
  11. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    I thought the same thing, Egmont, but the Corpus of Contemporary American English has lots of examples of "a couple hundred" in respected journals and magazines. I would expect "a couple of" in written form, too, but "a couple hundred" looks like it is well entrenched at this point.

    San Francisco Chronicle, "Alaska's Fishing Jobs Hooking Californians":

    Mother Jones
    As for this comment:

    That is exactly what a couple of hundred means. A couple of birds, a couple of drinks, a couple of humans... they all mean "2 of (something)". It may be evolving into the same pattern as "a few drinks", "a few humans", but that is not where it started. Its origin is the same of "a pair of". No one says "He had a pair aces" or "a pair doves". There's nothing verbose about "a pair of aces" or "a pair of doves". The same is true of "a couple of aces" or "a couple of doves".
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
  12. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I agree. To me saying "a couple of hundred" would be like saying "two of hundred."
  13. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    But would you have a problem with "a coupl'uh hundred dollars"? That's how I hear it spoken usually. It flows better with thousand: "That little fender bender cost me a coupl'uh thousand dollars!"
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
  14. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    (Oops - just saw this!)

    I've heard people say that, but I wouldn't say it myself.

    Do those of you who insist on "a couple of eggs" also insist on "a dozen of eggs"?
  15. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)

    "Four score and seven of years ago...."
  16. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    Your point being...?
  17. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    For me, couple works like brace or bunch. It's therefore always couple of​ for me. But then you already know that from post 2.
  18. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    Another way to look at it is that "a couple" works like "a pair". That's how it works for me. I wouldn't say "I bought a pair shoes" or "a pair doves landed on the roof".

    [edit] Oh, I see I'm repeating my argument from November. Well, at least I'm consistent. :)

    No, but I'm not sure why. :) I would insist on a gross of eggs, which is simply another grouping. Perhaps couple is migrating towards dozen in its use but it's not universal yet, even in American English.
  19. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)

    c 1430–50 Two Cookery-bks., CC. [i.e., 200] copull Conyngges [coneys].
  20. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    So perhaps it's reverting, then. :) I'm fairly sure there was a goodly amount of time in between where it was "a couple of".
  21. Fullcore New Member


    Bad analogy (as most are). Do those uneducated people suggesting you say "a couple eggs" insist on saying "a basket eggs"? If you were to say a bunch/basket/box of eggs, you would be correct. As you would also be saying, "a dozen eggs", or dozens of eggs. There are different cases for each.

    One thing is for certain, when arguing for spelling/grammar to reflect spoken English, which is most often butchered, you will most likely be incorrect. Reading the occasional book would help avoid such errors as writing "spoken English".
  22. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Plenty of people who aren't "uneducated" use "a couple days" or "a couple eggs" from time to time. Me, for example. :) I don't use it in writing, of course, unless I want to sound very conversational, but in speech I sometimes do.
  23. Fullcore New Member

    I was probably a little harsh there....

    I'm Australian and we wouldn't say "a couple days" in conversation. Well, some would but they are the uneducated types here. they tend to say things like "should of" and other similar phrases that one would not had they read a little more.

    Correct English is always to say "a couple of". People can and will say what they want to or, more likely, repeat what they have been exposed to without the research into the correct use.
  24. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I actually probably wouldn't use it very often with eggs. But here's the sort of context in which you might hear me (and quite a few, though certainly not all, AmE speakers) use it:
    Other person: How often do you walk in the mornings?
    Me: Oh, a couple times a week.
    Other person: How far is it to the grocery store?
    Me: A couple miles.

    But other times, I might easily say "a couple of times" or "a couple of miles." It all depends.
  25. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    I use both "couple of days" and "couple days", and don't think about it. I would use both in writing too, without thinking about it.

    Now, if I were writing a dissertation, I might have it proof-read, and my at-times ungrammatical nature would (maybe) be uncovered. :)

    Maybe, many moons ago, when there were less numbers, "couple" might have meant two, in the sense of exactly two, since the noun "couple" means "two units". And the noun was made into an adjective.

    "days" is similar to "ways", to give a parallel.

    I say both:
    a couple ways
    a couple of ways

    "couple" means "few" for me in many cases.

    We wouldn't say:
    a few of ways

    Now, when you hear "a couple gays" this means a gaggle of gays, and not a pair. :D (I'm gay, so I hope nobody was hurt when I wrote that.)
  26. hushhush77 Senior Member

    Hi, do a couple weeks and a couple of weeks mean the same? Like in the following situation:

    A: Can I have another try?
    B: You can take it in a couple weeks.

    So B means exactly two weeks or just two or three weeks. Thank you.
  27. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moderator note: hushhush's thread has been merged with an earlier thread.
  28. DonnyB

    DonnyB Sixties Mod

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Just to reiterate some of the earlier posts in the thread, in BE we'd always say "a couple of weeks".

    But it wouldn't necessarily mean exactly 14 days: it could be a couple of days either way. :D
  29. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    In AmE, both "couple of weeks" and "couple weeks" are used, though the latter is quite informal and also quite disliked by some people. (I use it sometimes, though, particularly in speech.) Either way, it means the same thing, and that is "approximately two weeks," just as it does in BE.

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