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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    A couple of kids running in the yard...

    A couple of kids running in the yard (Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, by Paul McCartney).

    In the sentence above, can "a couple of kids" be understood in two different ways (2 kids, probably a boy and a girl, and some kids, maybe 4 or 5)?

  2. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    It means two kids, whatever combination of genders they may have.

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    #3

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    I understand it as two or three, probably just two, of any combination of genders.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #4

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    a) What if I ask somebody "Do you have kids?" and they tell me "Yes. A couple"? Can it also mean has 2, maybe 2 boys or 2 girls?
    b) And what if somebody tells me "I saw Steffi a couple of days ago"? I'm guess that, in this second example, it can mean 4 or 5... Am I wrong?
    Last edited by beachboy; 12-Oct-2019 at 16:29.

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    #5

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    Quote Originally Posted by beachboy View Post
    a) What if I ask somebody "Do you have kids?" and they tell me "Yes. A couple"? Can it also mean has 2, maybe 2 boys or 2 girls?
    b) And what if somebody tells me "I saw Steffi a couple of days ago"? I'm guess that, in this second example, it can mean 4 or 5... Am I wrong?
    Nobody would understand "a couple" to mean four or five. It can extend to three, but it usually means two. "A couple of kids" will nearly always mean two: two boys, two girls, or one of each.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    The phrase a couple usually means exactly two, but it can also mean approximately two. However, it only means 'approximately two' when the speaker either does not know, or cannot be bothered to specify, or calculate, the exact quantity. That is to say, that it never means 3, unless by accident. What I mean is that the speaker always has the number 2 in mind. If he's out by one, that was not the intention. It was just that he was being vague.

    I don't want to directly contradict what GoesStation has said in post #3 but I find it incredibly surprising that anybody would think that Paul McCartney meant anything other than two kids. He's obviously exploiting the common idea of a typical nuclear family consisting of one father (Desmond), one mother (Molly) and two children. (No offence, GoesStation.)

    It is extremely unlikely, bordering on impossible that anybody could mistake 4 or 5 things for 2 things.

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    #7

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    I have to agree. "A couple of kids" can only mean "two children" in the song.
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    #8

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    OK, I got the meaning of "a couple of kids". But I'm still not sure whether the same train of thought applies to "a couple of days", as I posted in sentence b) in post #4.

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    #9

    Re: A couple of kids running in the yard...

    Quote Originally Posted by beachboy View Post
    OK, I got the meaning of "a couple of kids". But I'm still not sure whether the same train of thought applies to "a couple of days", as I posted in sentence b) in post #4.
    It's two or three days.
    I am not a teacher.

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