Couple of

The of is required after couple in such phrases as a couple of items or a couple of people or a couple of hundred. Couple in those phrases operates as a noun, not an adjective. It is akin to pair (a noun) rather than several or few (adjectives). It therefore requires the preposition of to link it to the following noun (items, people, hundred). You would never think of saying a pair items; it makes no more sense to say a couple items.

Though even some good writers seem unaware of the proper idiomatic usage, we must not condone their sins of omission. From time to time, I stop reading an otherwise interesting book or article if the author reveals his or her ignorance by repeatedly failing to include the required of. At a minimum, I silently add the missing of each time I encounter a naked couple. It seems like the decent thing to do.

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3 Comments

Filed under Grammar and Usage Errors

3 responses to “Couple of

  1. LYNN

    I’ve also recently seen a peculiar usage of the word ‘pair’. Someone will say ‘I have three pair of earrings here.’

  2. Yes, I’ve seen that too. I wonder whether it reflects a subconscious resistance to placing two plurals in close proximity to each other. I’ve run into a similar phenomenon as a lawyer. In the federal judicial system, the court that hears appeals is called (sensibly enough) the Court of Appeals (with an “s”). The plural is Courts of Appeals. Some lawyers, however, mistakenly render the plural as Courts of Appeal (without the “s”), perhaps because back-to-back plurals sound awkward. Just to complicate matters, some state judicial systems (including most prominently those of California and Florida) refer to the appellate court as the Court of Appeal (without an “s”). In those jurisdictions, the proper plural is Courts of Appeal.

  3. Pingback: On the one hand | Grumpmeister

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