Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Couple, A Few, And Several

Unable to find a related picture

It seems fairly standard that if you say "I have a couple of (noun)s" then that means you have two of them. If someone is talking about a romantic couple, they mean two people. I'm guilty of not always using this term accurately. Sometimes if I'm referring to 3 things I'll say a couple. It's incorrect but I do it out of habit.

In the past two weeks I've had no less than three conversations with friends about this subject, almost always arising from someone (only once was it me) using the term to refer to more than two objects and thus causing confusion.

Googling it, I didn't find much on the subject. It seems rather accepted that a couple refers to two objects and only two objects, no more and no less. But the what is a "few"? What about "several"? "Many"? Here's my thoughts on this:
  • A Couple -- Two things. No more, no less. A couple always refer to two.
  • A Few -- Three to Six things. I once considered a few to be three to eight, but have since reconsidered and now classify it as three to six.
  • Several -- Seven to Eleven things. The reclassification of a few was to make it a bit more even between it and several.
  • Dozen -- 12, obviously.
  • Many -- 13-17
  • A Lot -- Any amount between 18 and 35
  • Dozens --36-60
  • A Ton -- More than 60, less than 100
  • 'Bout a Hundred -- 100, give or take 3 at a rough estimate
  • A Crapload -- More than 100, less than 200
  • Hundreds -- 200+
If you have any suggestions or wish to express your thoughts on the matter, I urge you to leave a comment and I will consider adding and amending this list.


--jeff * said...

while i agree with the logic of your post, i still hold that "a couple" can also refer to an undefined amount from roughly 2-5.
have you considered checking the dictionary?

Posted from my MyTouch

Alisha said...

i say couple to define 2-3 things (sometimes four)

to express this point more I, on occasion will say a couple-two-three. which I think might be a dialect thing.

but if I was defining formally.
Couple = 2
few=3 or 4
several = 5+
Many = ...I find that several and amany are interchangeable
I'm going to leave the numebr scale back here
A lot, a bunch, a load, a ton, a crapload, a shat-ton. Please note what a "prefix" referring to something from the bowels can do to an amount.