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This is an area of English that I consistently have trouble with. Consider the following sentences.

  1. I have a couple of books on my desk.
  2. I have a bunch of books on my desk.
  3. I have a number of books on my desk.
  4. I have a few books on my desk.
  5. I have several books on my desk.
  6. I have many books on my desk.

How many books, give or take, do I have on my desk in each case?

[digression: one example of how I tend to get these wrong is the following: not long ago, my wife (native speaker of American English) and me were out with a few friends from out of town. At one point I said "[famous landmark] is only two hundred meters from here", to which my wife replied "no, it's more like a a couple hundred meters".]

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, phenry, user66974, tchrist Aug 31 '14 at 3:07

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  • @Fumble yes, although this does have more options than just "a few" and "a couple." – Tim Aug 28 '14 at 21:05
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    @Tim: Several of the answers on the original specifically mention several. Personally I think this type of question is fairly pointless here on ELU - for native speakers it's all a matter of opinion, and learners who don't yet have an opinion should be addressing such issues on English Language Learners. – FumbleFingers Aug 28 '14 at 21:22
  • Yes, it is quite opinion based, I tried to give the most factual, but even few I can't decide on myself. – Tim Aug 28 '14 at 21:24
  • In each case you have "some" books on your desk. – Sven Yargs Aug 28 '14 at 22:43
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  1. I have a couple of books on my desk.

    2, no arguments. A couple is 2. NB: If the person saying it is a couple is wrong (maybe distance), it is unlikely to be more than 4 or 5 of that item / unit. Kudos @Bye

    two people or things of the same sort considered together.
    -- Google Dictionary

  2. I have a bunch of books on my desk.

    Same as a number - undefined:

    a number of things, typically of the same kind, growing or fastened together.
    -- Google Dictionary

  3. I have a number of books on my desk.

    Not defined, anywhere from 1 to 1000000...

    a quantity or amount
    -- Google Dictionary

  4. I have a few books on my desk.

    I go for 3 or 4

    a small number of.
    -- Google Dictionary.

  5. I have several books on my desk.

    Same as above in my opinion - 3 or 4

    more than two but not many.
    -- Google Dictionary

  6. I have many books on my desk.

    A lot, more than 10 I would say - but it depends on what you are referring - I have many pets could be 5+, there are many stars in the sky is 1,000,000,000+

    a large number of.
    -- Google Dictionary.

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    In common, everyday use, a couple of (or, more properly, a coupla) is exactly two... but certainly no more than a half-dozen or so at most if it turns out not to have been two. – bye Aug 28 '14 at 21:07
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    Non-two uses of a couple also include but I've only had a couple of drinks, Constable and I'll just be a couple of minutes. (Not nit-picking; just being thorough. It's not so much a grammatical or vocabulary issue as a divorce from some aspects of reality.) – bye Aug 29 '14 at 0:32
  • I wont include them because the literal "translation" of couple is 2, and that is people manipulating the truth - they could equally say 2 and it would be a lie as well! – Tim Aug 29 '14 at 8:37
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This is only personal opinion.

If I had two or three books on the desk then I would use either (1) or (3) or (4) or (5).

(1) I have a couple of books on my desk.
(3) I have a number of books on my desk.
(4) I have a few books on my desk.
(5) I have several books on my desk.

If I had four through nine books on the desk then I would use (3).

(3) I have a number of books on my desk.

If I had more than nine books on the desk then I would use (6).

(6) I have many books on my desk.

I would not use (2) with bunch.

  • This is quite confusing as you have to keep scrolling back up to reference it. – Tim Aug 28 '14 at 21:09
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    @Tim I fixed it, – Gary's Student Aug 28 '14 at 21:18

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