Difference Between A Couple and A Few

The main difference between a couple and a few is that a couple is used to indicate a small number or amount of something, but usually at least two or more (generally, not more than 5) whereas a few may indicate a small number ranging from minimum 3 to even 10.

A couple and a few are quantifiers we use to specify amounts of certain things. Thus these two phrases depict some quantity that is smaller in number. Therefore, these usually indicate some amount necessarily below ten. Due to their similar nature, they are often used interchangeably.

Key Areas

1. A Couple
     – Meaning and Usage
2. A Few
     – Meaning and Usage
3. Similarity Between A Couple and A Few
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between A Couple and A Few
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

A Couple, A Few, Amounts, Grammar, English

Difference Between A Couple and A Few - Comparison Summary

A Couple – Meaning and Usage

A couple usually denotes a pair/ two or even a little more. As Merriam Webster points out ” Couple is now understood primarily to refer to two when used as a bare noun (“they make a nice couple”), but is often used to refer to a small indeterminate of two or more when used in the phrase a couple of (“I had a couple of cups of coffee and now I can’t sleep.”).”

Difference Between A Couple and A Few

Figure 1: I saw a couple of birds on the branch.

Therefore, a couple/a couple of may also indicate a small number of something, which is necessarily more than two or even more. However, there is generally a maximum amount; its maximum lies not more than 5 numbers.

A Few – Meaning and Usage

A few also indicates a small number or amount of people or things. However, a few has never been used to indicate a definite number, unlike a couple of. Moreover, a few can indicate a greater number than a couple.

However, unlike few, a few indicates a quite smaller number. For example,

Few people from the whole patrol attended the meeting. (Indicates not many from the whole number: comparatively a minority from the whole)

Only a few people came to the ceremony. (Indicates a small number of people)

Main Difference - A Couple vs A Few

Figure 2: Only a few people visit this path at this time of the year.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that these are relatable since the meaning may differ according to the context.

Similarity Between A Couple and A Few

  • Both a couple and a few are used as quantifier phrases in English that can indicate some small number or amount of people or things.

Difference Between A Couple and A Few

Definition

A Couple/ a couple of means two or more number of people or things. A few indicates something consisting of or amounting to only a small number of things or people. This is basic difference between a couple and a few.

Number Range

Usually, a couple of can indicate something between 2 to 5 whereas a few most may often indicate a number of something from 3-5.

Conclusion

Both a couple and a few are phrases or idioms in the English language that indicate small numbers or amounts of things or people. Therefore, these two often overlap in the usage. Even though their distinction seems quite blurred, the main difference between a couple and a few can be noted as; a couple is used to indicate a small number or amount of something, but usually at least two or more (usually not more than 5) whereas a few may indicate a small number ranging from minimum 3 to even 10.

Reference:

“’Couple,’ ‘Few,’ and ‘Several': The (Mostly) Definitive Guide.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “50005” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “River Few People Track Alley Stroll Basswood” (CC0) via Max Pixel

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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