• Check your email inbox in (a couple) (a couple of) minutes.
• I’m meeting (a couple) (a couple of) people in an hour.
• She’d like to tell him (a couple) (a couple of) things!
According to some grammar sources, either a couple or a couple of is acceptable.
However, those sources also note that a couple without the of is colloquial. It strays from what most consider Standard English.
Couple implies two of something considered together, a pair.
Please get a pair of gardening gloves from the garage.
I’m going to buy a pair of shoes.
I saw a pair of mourning doves on my roof.
If it’s correct to say a pair of something, doesn’t it make sense to say a couple of when you mean two of something?
But according to some sources — Merriam Webster, for example — couple also can imply two or a small number. The dictionary giant adds that you can drop the of when using a couple informally:
I’m taking a couple
May I borrow a couple
We’ve had both dogs for a couple
Using a couple instead of a couple of will not bring the grammar police to your door, but it might cause some to want to fill in the of. To me, it simply sounds more grammatically complete to add of.
Considering how complicated the English language can be, there of course is an exception. When you are using couple with more, you don’t need of:
We can expect a couple more wins this season.
I could use a couple more tomatoes for the salad.
Let’s find a couple more people to play bridge.
You can get by with saying or writing a couple minutes, a couple people or a couple things, but it will cause this Ruthless Editor — and possibly some others — to consider something missing and mentally add the of.
In business or academic writing, use a couple of. For informal conversations, a couple can stand alone.
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