A couple of times

  • novice_81

    Senior Member
    German
    Hi

    I was just curious because when I opened my dictionary there was an example "a couple of times" and a word "few" in paranthesis next to it. So for a while I thought it might mean more than two, however I was pretty sure it couldn't mean more than two.

    Thanks
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    There appears to be some tendency for AE speakers to be more flexible, BE speakers to be more literal.

    Thinking about this yet again, it seems that AE speakers have bifurcated minds when it comes to couple. Nearly all of us use it to mean two, a pair for some contexts. In addition, some of us use it to mean a small quantity, greater than one and more than two.

    The usages are distinct. You will not hear, See that married couple over there? Fred and Matilda and George are such a cute couple!

    In can be confusing when the literal users and the not-so-literal speakers are together.
    Imagine a long dining table. At one end sits Brad. We don't know, or particularly care, how he uses couple. We just know that he is a doughnut lover. He calls out, to those at the far end of the table, Pass me a couple of doughnuts please. Literal Robert puts two dougnuts on a plate, and reaches out to pass the plate down to Brad. Flexible Tom
    reaches over and adds another doughnut to the plate, reminding Robert, He asked for a couple.


     

    novice_81

    Senior Member
    German
    Flexible teacher: I want you to bring in your homework in a couple of weeks.
    Some students turned it in after two weeks and he says: "Why so early, you still have at least one more week to turn it in."

    Literal teacher: I want you to bring in your homework in a couple of weeks.
    Some students turned it in after three weeks and he says: "I said a couple of weeks. You're one week late. You failed!"
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Right you are novice_81. You have given a couple of interpretations. Had you offered a third, you might have still given a couple of interpretations! Isn't English confusing?
     
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