If I say " a couple of girls are in the park", will that mean "two girls" or "some" girls are in the park? Please advsie.

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Hi Yoong Liat,

In English. there are some things, I find, senseless!!

Or how can you jusify that we deal with"a number of..." as if it is a plural subject while we deal with "the number of..." as a singular subject?? (at least that what I've studied) "a number of" means several what about "the number of" doesn't it have the same sense??

Thanks anyway..
This one is confusing because usually when you have "a [ x ] of [ y ]" we are taught to ignore the "of [ y ]" part and use [ x ] to determine whether it's singular or plural.

A pile of pennies is on the table.

The number of students attending this school is increasing.

But you would have no problem with "Three girls are coming to the party" or "Two girls are coming to the party."

You must "translate" the phrase "a couple of" as "two." It's not the same as the "a [ x ] of [ y ]" construction above.

Likewise, the phrase "a number of" = "many." "A number of girls are coming to the party" = "Many girls are coming..."

Unforutnately, "the number [of girls]" looks very much like "[a number of] girls" - but in the first case, "number" is the subject, and in the second case "girls" is the subject.
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Hello Mythical Lady,

Your question is:

Is it "a couple of girls are in the park"

or "a couple of girls is in the park"?

It should be "a couple of girls are in the park" because here 'couple' refers to two (British English) or a few (American English). For example, a couple of police officers were standing at the door.
Hello Mythical Lady

A number of boys are missing. The verb 'are' is used because 'a number of boys' means 'several'. So in place of 'a number of', you can say "Several boys are missing."

The number of road accidents has decreased. Here 'has' is used because it is related to 'number'. In other words, the number has decreased in regard to road accidents. You cannot say "Road accidents have decreased."

I hope I've given you a clear picture.
Think of 'couple' as a 'measure' or 'count' word.

(I think Chinese speakers might find this easier to grasp.)

A measure of salt. One measure of salt. Two or more measures of salt.

A couple. (of people is implied)
One couple.
One married couple is going to the wedding, and two married couples are going to be leaving.

It is similar to a lot of measure or count words used in English:

A herd, flock, spoonful, bucket, pair ... of ... is doing something.
Some herds, flocks, spoonfuls, buckets, pairs ... of ... are doing something.

I hope this helps to make things clearer for you.
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