Published: 13th March 2021
English Blues: Is it ‘was’ or ‘were’ after we use couple?
Albert P' Rayan tells us how to use the word 'couple' correctly in sentences, what to use before it and the meaning of other words related to the same. Read on to find out
Here is an interesting query from a reader: “Recently, I came across the word ‘trouple’ in a sentence. I could guess the meaning of the word. Is it a commonly used word? Does it have any other meaning?” ‘Trouple’ is a portmanteau, coined from a combination of the word ‘triple’ and ‘couple’. It has different meanings. It refers to a group of three people or things. It also refers to an inclusive relationship in which three people are involved. In other words, it is a three-person relationship in which a man has two female partners or a woman has two male partners. It can also refer to any relationship in which three people of the same sex are involved. This example below is from www.urbandictionary.com: Tim, Pat and Lawrence all live together and share California king while they enjoy being a ‘trouple’.
The word ‘throuple’, which is a blend of ‘three’ and ‘couple’ also has the same meanings. The ‘rouple’ in ‘throuple’ rhymes with ‘couple’. In a TV program on NBC News, host Megyn Kelly has a conversation with “a Texas family with an unconventional arrangement: a man with two female partners, who are raising children together”. Is ‘throuple’ a common word? Yes. Some dictionaries have added the word to their lexicon. According to www.lexico.com, powered by Oxford, the term is defined as ‘a romantic relationship between three people’.
Now the question whether ‘throuple’ takes a singular or plural verb arises. Let me explain it by discussing the word ‘couple’. Look at this headline: Kanyakumari couple kills two kids, commits suicide (TOI, Feb 17, 2021). Let’s look at the first paragraph of the news report: A suicide note left behind stated that they took the extreme step as they could not bear the sufferings of their son due to a health problem. He broke into the house with the help of neighbours and found the children lying dead on the bed, while the couple were found hanging.
In the headline of the news report, the word ‘couple’ takes a singular verb: Kanyakumari couple kills two kids, commits suicide. In the report, the word takes a plural verb: the couple were found hanging. Is it wrong to use a plural verb? No. ‘Couple’ is used as a singular and a collective noun and therefore, it can be paired with either a singular verb or a plural verb. So, the sentences below are grammatically correct:
1. The couple was found hanging.
2. The couple were found hanging.
Which of the two sentences below are correct?
1. A couple murdered their children.
2. A couple murdered its children.
Though both the sentences are grammatically correct, the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘their’ are more common than ‘it’ and ‘its’. Rule: Use a plural verb if you want to use a plural pronoun. Using a singular verb and a plural pronoun as in the sentence ‘A couple kills their two children’ is considered to be incorrect. The correct sentence is: ‘A couple kill their two children.’
Is it redundant to use the phrase ‘married couple’? No, it is not redundant. As ‘couple’ refers to two people, we can use the phrase. Here are examples of ‘adjective + couple’ collocations: married couple, newly-wed couple, elderly couple.