Published: 05th July 2021
English Blues: Is couple plural or is it incorrect? Here's what we found
In British English, it is very common to treat ‘couple’ as a plural noun and it is not incorrect to use a singular verb after ‘couple’
Mary and John are a couple in their late fifties. They encounter a good-natured fairy on their way to a park. The fairy tells the couple that each of them will be granted a wish. The couple think for a while. Mary tells the fairy, “I want to travel around the world with my beloved husband.” The fairy smiles at Mary and says, “Wish granted” and gives her tickets for a luxury cruise and a purse filled with money. Now it is John’s turn. After an appreciable period of time in contemplation, John says, “Dear fairy, my wish is to travel around the world with a woman thirty years younger than me.” The fairy looks at John, waves her wand and says, “John, your wish is also granted.” Immediately, John becomes 88.
Are the couple happy now? An interesting story, isn’t it? Let’s discuss the nuances of the words ‘couple’, ‘purse’ and ‘appreciable’ in the story. Is ‘couple’ singular or plural? Should we say ‘The couple is happy’ or ‘The couple are happy’? Which is correct? ‘The couple think for a while’ or ‘The couple thinks for a while’? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we should use the plural or singular verb depending on how we are thinking of the members of this collective noun (as individuals or as a group). For example, when talking about a couple getting married, we can use the plural form (The couple are to be wed next week) and when talking about an established couple, we can use the singular form (The couple has three children).
In British English, it is very common to treat ‘couple’ as a plural noun and it is not incorrect to use a singular verb after ‘couple’.
Here are examples: The couple have two daughters and one son. Though their marriage broke down years ago, the couple were never divorced. ‘Purse’ is a very commonly used word in India. Many people use ‘purse’ interchangeably with ‘wallet’.
In British English, a purse is a small bag or pouch that people, mainly women, keep their money in whereas a wallet is a small flat case which is used to keep items like cash, credit cards, etc. Example: I am not sure whether our donations will go into the public purse or into someone’s pocket.
The word ‘appreciable’ means capable of being perceived, measured or estimated. The synonyms of the word include significant, marked, obvious, considerable.
Look at these examples: There is an appreciable level of awareness of COVID-19 among the students. It would not make any appreciable difference.