Ask the Editor
Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
"A couple of more minutes"
Wednesday May 4th 2011
"A couple of more minutes"

Reader Vam asks whether the phrase a couple of more minutes is acceptable. Here is the answer:

The quantifier a couple of is used to say that there are two of something. When people use this phrase, they usually mean approximately two, not exactly two.

In very informal usage, you may hear a couple of + more, as in:

  • a couple of more minutes
  • a couple of more days
  • a couple of more questions

However, many people consider a couple of + more ungrammatical, so it shouldn't be used in formal or academic writing.

In formal and informal English, a couple of can be used with a plural noun, or with an adjective + plural noun, as in these examples:

  • a couple of times (= approximately two times)
  • a couple of years ago (= approximately two years ago)
  • a couple of new chairs (= approximately two new chairs)

A couple of can also be used with the numbers dozen, hundred, thousand, million, and billion to mean that there are approximately two times that number, as in:

  • a couple of dozen students (= approximately 24 students)
  • a couple of hundred years ago (= approximately two hundred years ago)

A couple of cannot be used with other numbers (a couple of fifty people).

The word of in the expression a couple of is often reduced or deleted in spoken English, as in:

  • a couple a' more times / a couple more times
  • a couple a' dozen students / a couple dozen students