tre o quattro

Leo Guelphus

Italian - Marchigiano
Salve. Ho qualche problema con l'espressione italiana "tre o quattro", nel senso di poche unità ma non necessariamente tre o quattro numericamente.
"Ho incontrato solo tre o quattro macchine in autostrada"
Il mio tentativo:
"I've met just a few cars on the highway".
Ma "a few" non mi suona bene. Cerco un'espressione che sia più di "a couple" ma senza esagerare.
  • theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Hi Leo,

    I don't think there's anything wrong with using "a few" or even "a couple." Both are used to refer to a small number of something, and there's not much, if any, difference between them in terms of the number suggested (i.e., "a couple" is not held to mean literally "two," nor is "a few" considered more). Another possibility is "a handful." I passed only a few cars on the highway / I passed only a couple of cars on the highway / I passed only a handful of cars on the highway. All mean pretty much the same thing. ("Passed" sounds more natural to me than "met," which sounds somehow formal.)

    "Three or four," as Starless suggests, also sounds fine.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi Leo,
    Personally I'd go for "a few".
    Three or four is ok, but it seems a bit too precise, if someone said 3 or 4 to me, I'd expect it to be actually 3 or 4.
    We use "a few" precisely for this situation, "pochi ma non necessariamente tre o quattro"!!!
    I agree with theartichoke, I don't like "met". We say "I met with traffic" but I'm not sure I'd say I met a few cars.
    Passed is better, or even "there were only a few cars on the motorway" or "I only saw a few cars"


    Mod huc mod illuc
    Italian - Marche
    Hi Odysseus
    This time “BE”.
    Why this question?
    For the same reason why Johngiovanni (I now realize) has a 'at least in BE' note in his post.

    Which confirms my doubts, since I know the expression from written texts, but I have never heard it used in the US.

    But if it's BE you are looking for, you are good to go.


    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Ciao Ody! What part (other than motorway) do you see as strictly BE? Odd, meaning not very often, is used in Canada, as well. To have the odd drink, to have the odd encounter over the years, etc.


    Mod huc mod illuc
    Italian - Marche
    Hi Ron ;) It's one of those vague feelings. 'Odd' as 'occasional' is indeed used, occasionally :)

    But here that meaning of 'occasional' would be used as a further metaphor, so to say, to express the meaning of 'very few' , even 'hardly any'.

    I don't know, it sounds a little ... odd, used this way.

    Using 'odd' as 'occasional' requires a different context, I think. When you say "We really just had the odd encounter over the year" you have a longer timeframe, and an event that is characterized as happening occasionally = seldom and without planning.

    In the OP we have a short timeframe, and the event (seeing or crossing other cars) is by definition random.

    "What did you do last night?"

    would you answer

    "We went to Mulligan's and had the odd drink" ?

    I'd say "We had a couple of drinks" (where couple does not mean 'two')

    It's an interesting little subject...
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