Grammar: Couple or Few?

Lesson 27: Couple or Few?

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Couple or few?

Wanda the waitress gets annoyed with diners who confuse couple and few…

Many people use the words couple and few interchangeably. Even though they mean similar things, there’s a slight difference between them...

When to use "a couple"

When it comes to a number amount, a couple means exactly two. 

  • Example 1: Can you pass me a couple of coffee creamers? Two, please.
  • Example 2: I’ll have a couple more burgers–one with ketchup and one without.

Using the phrase a couple of sounds more casual than specifying two. It’s easy to remember that a couple means two, because it’s the same as the noun phrase, a couple– as in two people who are in a relationship.

When to use "few" or "a few"

Few can mean two, but it can also mean three–maybe four. In other words, a few means a small number that isn’t exact. 

  • Example 1: Tommy has very few friends.
  • Example 2: Did you go on a few hikes this fall?

Two Hints: Notice how few can have the article a in front of it (or not). The noun phrase a couple always starts with a. The second hint is that if you mean more than a few of something, use several instead.