'a couple of' and 'a couple'

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prankstare

Senior Member
Portuguese - Brazil
I have browsed through the dozens of already existing threads upon the same subject on the WR Forums, but none of them does contain the answers to my questions. Therefore, I believe it would do no harm starting another topic about this. I need clarifications!

First, I'd like to point out some of the things I read from contributors on other related topics (I am not very sure about the accuracy though; please correct if there is anything wrong) :

prankstare said:
P1. 'a couple of' and 'a couple' can be used interchangeably in AE (not in BE, though, I suppose) and that either is correct, informally (for example, "A couple of hosts" or "A couple hosts").

P2. 'a couple of' and 'a couple' can be used interchangeably, as written in P1. Although it has been noted that many native English speakers, especially American ones, will drop 'of' after 'couple' when a numerical term follows the word 'couple' (e.g., "A couple hundred guests").

P3. It would be advisable that, if writing the expression in an important essay or composition for instance, the writer does never drop 'of' in any case.

Now my questions:


Q1. When you say "a couple of hosts/a couple hosts", does that generally mean an indefinite number of hosts or strictly only two hosts?

Q2. "a couple hundred" -- How would you write this in numerical terms? 200?

Q3. Do you think the usage of such expression is too informal to be used in formal readings? Meaning it would be best only use it in colloquial speaking and never in formal-related stuff?


Many thanks;

Alex. :)
 
  • Miss Matty Jenkyns

    Member
    English English
    Hello prankstare
    I would say that in BE (at least in my vintage) - that "Jack and Jill are a couple" - but every other pair of objects needs to be specified " a couple of.."

    Therefore :
    Q1 - "a couple of hosts" is rather strange, but would meant two different hosts. "A couple hosts" would be incorrect.

    Q2: I would say "a couple of hundred" -not meaning two hundred but an indefinite amount, so there is no numerical term for this.

    Q3: I would say that except for the use of "couple" as referring to two people in a relationship, all other uses would be informal.
    Hope this helps.
     

    MELmadrue

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Now my questions:


    Q1. When you say "a couple of hosts/a couple hosts", does that generally mean an indefinite number of hosts or strictly only two hosts?

    To me, it does mean 2, but in a way that's not totally certain, like the speaker didn't pay that much attention to how many.

    Example: There were a couple of hosts and some hostesses.

    Q2. "a couple hundred" -- How would you write this in numerical terms? 200?

    "A couple hundred" means "about two hundred or so." It's not an exact number.

    Q3. Do you think the usage of such expression is too informal to be used in formal readings? Meaning it would be best only use it in colloquial speaking and never in formal-related stuff?

    The expression is a bit informal, but it just depends on the situation whether you can use it. It can definitely be used in some writing; it's not restricted to informal conversation.
     

    MELmadrue

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Yes, I've seen it in books. But do you mean academic books or novels, etc? You probably won't find it in a lot of academic writing because it is imprecise.
     
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