‘Couple,’ ‘Few,’ and ‘Several’: The (Mostly) Definitive Guide

Couple is used to refer to two things, but is also commonly used for a small number greater than two. Some used in the same way as couple and also for a number slightly larger than a couple. Some commonly used for a number greater than a few and a few. It is sometimes used in the same way as couple And some.

One of the annoying things lexicographers often hear is that people don’t use words correctly or correctly. However, many such claims are guided by the assumption that we are the ones who should enforce the correct use (and not what we actually do, which is document actually word usage, even if that usage is considered wrong, loose, or otherwise… squishy).

However, we’re nothing if not useful, so we’ve chosen a set of common words that people often ask about—couple, someAnd some—and will provide below some general usage guidelines.

replace 59b6de897d8d4

How many couples are in this available photo search for ‘a few’? Some?

History and usage of couple

Couple was first introduced into English as a noun in the 13th century, where it referred to two people linked in a romantic relationship. This word is from Latin copulatemeans “bond.”

The word was quickly applied to pairs, but by the 1500s it was also used in the phrase some to refer to an unknown but still small number of people or things:

Show you one Scholemaster who, at your command, will teach my son and yours, and the rest I will provide, yes, though those three cost me a few hundred pounds a year. .. — Roger Ascham, scholar shift. 1586

Here I will send some letters to the World. – Richard Steele, in Audiences1711

We can verify that there are more than two letters following Steele’s assertion.

See more:  'Equivocate': What It Does and Doesn't Mean

Once this expansion of couple to begin with, nothing can hold back. Couple now mainly understood to refer to two people when used as an empty noun (“they make a nice couple”), but is more commonly used to refer to an indefinite number of two or more than when used in the phrase some (“I drank a few cups of coffee and now I can’t sleep.”). Its smallness seems to be relative: a quick check of our citation files shows that the phrase a few years ago has been used to refer to anything from one year and changes to eight years, although most of the time the phrase seems to be used for three or four years (when we can verify the date).

Verdict: couple used in small amounts most of the time, but usually as little as two or more.

Little use and history

Some is an ancient word, dating back to the 9th century. It has never been used for a definite number, unlike couple: from the beginning, some have been used in relatively small quantities.

The keyword here is relative. Some contrast with much, but both are extensible counts. For example:

Men born of women are few days old and full of hardships.— Job 14:1, King James Bible1611

He went to the cave a few days ago and asked his question, and since then he has fasted in his cell while waiting for an answer. — Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Egyptian Games1967

“Several days” here is describing two completely different numerical quantities. The King James Bible use “several days” to mark the length of one’s life compared to eternity; excerpt from Egyptian Games seems to be referring to the meager number of days that have passed since the arrival of the visitor and the current story. In either case, you can safely say that some refers to a number between, say, 3 and 10.

See more:  You Can Use 'Whose' for Things

To make matters more confusing, some also appear in idioms not less And pretty muchboth refer to multiple:

Maria then said some really bad things about Baltasar and not less about Tony, and when she finally continued speaking in her normal tone, she used a very clear language… — Phillip Parotti, Texas ReviewsSpring Summer 2014

or even the bulk of a presentation layer:

Quite a few phrases built around in fact–in fact, in fact, And the truth is, for example – attacked in various notebooks as verbose dead wood.—Merriam-Webster’s English usage dictionary1986

Verdict: some less than much or most ofand maybe as much couple or more couple. It’s all relative.

Some usage and history

Some appeared in English in the 1400s, but did not develop its numerical meaning until the 1500s. (Some originally means “different or separate” in English.) Yes, meaning: some originally mentioned more than one.

They are but an heir, but still a number of people.— Edward Coke, _First Part of the English Institute _, 1628

In this sense, then, some almost like couple or some.

By the 1600s, however, some mentioned a non-large undefined number:

The current pushed the Ship to shore, where we were forced to stay for a few hours.— Adam Olearius, p. John Davies, The voyages and voyages of messengers sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein to the Grand Duke Muscovy and the King of Persia1662

but there can still be many:

Some young people at Universities, haunted by their fear of pedagogy, fall into worse extremes.—Jonathan Swift, A proposal to correct, improve and define English1712

The much fortunately, the meaning is now mostly a dialect usage. In usage, the meaning of some is that it represents more some. We have a helpful quote on our file, sent there by a science editor:

While observing the planet Jupiter, Galileo discovered that it was supported by several satellites or small moons orbiting it. [ed note: several=4 here].— Stephen W. Hawking, In a brief historical period1988

Verdict: common use, some usually more a couple And somealthough sometimes it’s like both and sometimes more some. Edema.

See more:  Learning to Like 'Like'

We hope that many of you can understand it all.

Categories: Usage Notes
Source: vothisaucamau.edu.vn

Leave a Comment