Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

couple vs couple of

For example: “a couple of things” vs “a couple things”

I know “a couple of things” is grammatically correct, but I also often hear couple used without the “of”, and by educated people.

Now I’m confused. Isn’t “couple things” wrong?

Submit Your Comment

or fill in the name and email fields below:


If couple = pair, is "couple of" justified by "pair of"? Yea, required because of.
Would one say "I'll have a pair apples" or "I'll have a pair of apples"?

AntZ1 Apr-29-2022

1 vote   Permalink   Report Abuse

The word 'a' does NOT always indicate a singular. You always say 'a pair of face cards in a hand, indicating two. The same applies to all these collective nouns for a group of creatures: a flock of geese, a herd of cattle, a pack of dogs, a school of fish.

CoullPert Apr-28-2022

0 vote   Permalink   Report Abuse

I have a visceral, loathing reaction to "couple" without "of". It evokes an almost physical illness in me. I beg of all English speaking humanity to please use the "of" and save my mortal soul.

Katherine Esmati Aug-17-2020

38 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

No, omitting the "of" isn't a sign of illiteracy, though it can be sloppy writing: it's common in certain regions, such as the New York City area, and it's something I had to learn not to do in my professional writing.

Crime Bill Jun-01-2019

4 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

As I have just come across this question in a proofreading context, I read the foregoing comments with interest. In British English, the adjectival use of "couple" is unheard of, so "a couple apples" is not just wrong but jarringly so. In US English, I have noticed that "couple" is sometimes a noun and sometimes an adjective. What I gather from these comments (and from other pages) is that the adjectival use of "couple" (as in "a couple apples") is widely use in spoken and colloquial written English in the USA, but the nominal use of "couple" (as in "a couple of apples") is acceptable everywhere and is required in formal writing in the USA.

I disagree with those commentators who see this as a decline in US English. There is nothing illogical in the adjectivalisation of "couple". It is a fate that has befallen other nouns of quantity such as "dozen" and "hundred" without adverse effect. For example, in Richardson's New English Dictionary (1827), we read that "a century is a hundred of years, of men, of anything", a usage that now sounds jarringly wrong. We are none the worse for having made an adjective of "hundred". Although "a couple apples" now sounds illiterate to British ears, I daresay we will grow to accept it too.

PeterBee Aug-27-2018

9 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

I love grammar! The article "a" points to a singular noun. Whenever we use "a couple," whatever comes after it must be plural. Doesn't that mean that the singular noun must be "couple"? Couple can't truly function as an adjective if it is the singular noun for the article.

brenda1 Sep-01-2017

3 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

This discussion is irksome. First of all, why is it that we have become so apathetic to maintaining a standard? If we allow some things to slip by as "an evolving language," how do we decide which things to allow? This usage, "couple times," or "couple different," is a slippery little slope. I think allowing students, in particular, to use this...colloquialism/slang when writing formal papers is a massive mistake. Keeping it simple and devoid of existential discussion, it is a matter of simple mechanics. "Couple," according to Merriam Webster, is NOT an adjective, nor adverb nor a word of any other sort than this: it is a NOUN. Therefore, using it without "of," is, plainly, incorrect. For the sake of consistency, if you are a teacher, please do not let this "little thing" slip by. That is all.

SaraSpeaksSuccinctly Aug-16-2017

37 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

“A couple of things” is incorrect.

Besides it being incorrect,
the word "of" adds nothing to the meaning of the phrase,
"a couple things."

Jonathan Finch Jul-28-2017

3 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

I have always been under the assumption that couple=2, few=3. (approx.)
This being said, would one say, "two of apples"? I feel the"of" is unnecessary.
However, if you were, let's say...choosing varieties for your dozen donuts, it would be appropriate to say, "i'll take a couple of these and a few of those". "A couple these and a few those would be incorrect.

What i'm trying to say is, the English language can be confusing as all hell sometimes!!!!

Matt Torres Mar-12-2017

5 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Can't help comparing "couple" with "dozen," as in "I bought a dozen eggs and used a couple of eggs to make an omelet." I've learned that in very old English the usage was "a dozen of eggs," plain weird since the "of" was long ago dropped. "Couple of" is compulsive for me, though some argue "couple" can be a noun (pair) or an adjective (approximately two).

James Wood Aug-13-2016

5 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

This little gem from AP:-
"The Democratic governor said Friday Van Houten's "inability to explain her willing participation in such horrific violence" leads him to believe she remains an unreasonable risk to society."
is a fine example of how the omission of punctuation, prepositions, and conjunctions, can lead to confusion.
Another downside to Mercan English.

user106928 Aug-02-2016

4 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

They also omit the word on in lots of situations.
"I went to the bank Wednesday..."
"The incident happened last week Tuesday... " (pronounced "toozday" if course).
The only version I've ever heard in Britain would be along the lines of
"let's meet up Thursday" instead of "let's meet up on Thursday"

Sean Salvador Aug-02-2016

6 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

It just plain grates on my brain to hear or see "a couple ______". Come on. Using "of" is no formality -- it is just good basic sense.

"I went to the store and bought a couple apples."

Really? I know Gala apples, and Fuji apples . . . Never heard of Couple Apples -- and do you buy just one, I am unclear.

"I want to clear up a couple things."

Hm. I'm not your significant -- in fact, I hardly know you -- isn't it premature to start discussing "couple things"?

Q Jul-31-2016

37 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

It is all part of an evil American plot to eliminate prepositions.


user106928 Jun-19-2016

13 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Think of all the apples in the world. You just want two apples. So you choose "a couple of" them. That's how I see it. Perhaps some people confuse "a couple apples" with "a few apples." Interesting how they do get "few" right: No one says, "a few of apples." Seems people should be able to keep the two separate without using up too much brain power.

Carmen Ficarra Jun-18-2016

23 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

"A couple of x" is definitely correct; omitting "of" is just one more of countless examples of our "progressively" more illiterate society where what once would have been red lined in grade school is now sadly found in the NY Times, once our nation's leading newspaper, now it's leading laughingstock.

Russell Davis May-04-2016

63 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

@ElktoothChain - My idea of descriptivism is that you make your case and support it with examples, not simply insult people and talk down to them. And perhaps say something specifically relevant to the topic.

Warsaw Will Sep-02-2013

52 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

What a lot of annoying prescriptivists here. Yuck. Anecdotal explanations of linguistics and language use lead only to perpetuation of outmoded and simply incorrect ways of perceiving and understanding how language works and develops (note that word, quite the opposite of "devolves").

ElktoothChain Sep-02-2013

11 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Since "couple" is a noun, as already indicated, it is more correct to use it with "of"
before another noun. But if it going to devolve into "a couple" & schwa, (comparable
to "gonna" and "tuh" [to]) better to accept the less correct form.

Bob Davis Jul-26-2012

0 vote   Permalink   Report Abuse

I consider the Mirriam Webster Dictionary a source for USan English which is a type of patois - not authentic English.

For an excellent treatment of the subject see

Gadfly Jun-17-2012

6 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Taken from Mirriam Webster Dictionary:

The adjective use of a couple, without of, has been called nonstandard, but it is not. In both British and American English it is standard before a word (as more or less) indicating degree . Its use before an ordinary plural noun is an Americanism, common in speech and in writing that is not meant to be formal or elevated . It is most frequently used with periods of time and numbers .

terry2 Nov-23-2011

17 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Use "couple of" if you assume couple to be a noun, such as pair: "a couple of apples" or "a pair of apples." Drop the "of" if you assume "couple" to be an adjective, such as few: "a couple apples" or "a few apples."

tfneva Sep-11-2011

53 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Why is "couple of X" grammatically correct? What is the logic? And if "of" should be inserted after couple, then why not after "few or "several?" A few of things? A several of things? "A couple of things" sounds pretentious to me -- "of" is an extra word that has no use. I say drop it.

tfneva Sep-11-2011

18 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

"A couple things" is wrong, but the alternative is too antiquated for common use. I refer to "some coupled things". The "things" you see, are "coupled" meaning that the were put/made in couples.

Nigel1 Feb-26-2005

0 vote   Permalink   Report Abuse

Your example, Mike, does not deal with the same idea or structure at all. Speed is right.

Perenna1 Nov-10-2004

30 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Speed, I don't think this is entirely correct. The word can be used without the 'of' in a few situatoins.

How many did she have?
She had a couple.

mike7 Nov-09-2004

7 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Dave, don't try that at home! :-)
In Roger Waters' The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking we here him saying: "Hello...ya wanna cup coffee? [...] I'm sorry, would you like a cup of coffee?"
I think it's just a matter of how much one has got sleep the night before. Some people don't wanna speak too much so they use the of-free version of "couple of X."

goossun Nov-01-2004

12 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

A COUPLE X is everyday North-American English, but wouldn't generally be acceptable in a formal context. It's hardly used in Britain at all, although I've used it myself a couple times. ;)

Dave3 Oct-30-2004

26 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Dominic, your instincts are correct. "A couple of X" is similar to "a pair of X." "A couple X" is just slurred.

speedwell2 Oct-29-2004

38 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

Do you have a question? Submit your question here