A few vs. several

It’s simple, but it’s an arguement that my family still has not settled comfortably in probably about 15 years, and it’s all based on directions in which someone stated that something was ‘several miles’ away and hilarity and anger ensued.

So how many is a few and how many is several and do the numbers overlap? It is my opinion that a ‘few’ is 3-5 and several is anything from 6-10. However, if you say “I’ll have a few m&ms” it could mean 15 in your palm. But to have several cars it seems like 4 would be appropriate.

Thoughts?

Both “a few” and “several” are always at least three (unless one is being deliberately deceptive). People generally use “several” to mean more than “a few,” but there is no hard-and-fast rule. It depends as much on what impression you want to give as it does on how many items there are. “Several,” as far as I know, has a far higher upper limit – one can easily have “more than a few,” but one seldom has more than several.

I really disagree that there’s no upper limit. I think once you get to 12 (at least) you say “A dozen” or “A lot”

I’ve got several Van Damme movies on tape: seven

I’ve got A LOT of Van Damme movies on tape: 11

I go with a few=3ish. Several anywhere from 5 - 11.

The 3-5 and 6-10 rules apply in nearly every situation, including M&Ms. However, I also feel that 4-6 of anything can be considered “a bunch.” So it goes: a few, a bunch, several. In that order.

but assigning overlap can result in tears. If someone told you something was several miles away, what would you assume? Because if it ends up being 12, I’mma gonna be pissed.

But to me, seven m&ms? That’s a few.

A bunch is a whole new problem. I see a bunch as being over 10. A bunch seems like an ABUNDANCE.

Several miles would be 2-5 in my opinion. I know you did not ask for advice, but please, make your family use mapquest and ignore the problem.
The bigger the item, the fewer it takes to be “many”. Hence, I agree with your statement above that 4 cars are many, if they all belong to the same person.

Well, I mean, the family argument no longer has anything to do with maps or distance. Now it’s a thing where anyone who arrives at a family event is asked “HOW MANY IS A FEW” and their answer automatically puts them in one camp.

Many is a whole other discussion. Many, in my opinion is over ten. “I have many antique books” is very different from “I have a few antique books”

I’d agree that several is about 6 - 10, but I think “a few” is relative to whatever is being talked about. If asked how many golf balls I hit yesterday at the driving range, I might say “a few” meaning 40, because that is fewer than normal. I wouldn’t say a person with 40 cars owns a few cars (unless I’m trying for sarcasm :)).

one < couple < few < several < basket full < barrel full < gobs

one < a couple < a couple-three < a few < several < a bunch/a lot < a shitload

Should be
a couple-three <= a few

Borschevsky hit the nail on the head.

“A few” and “several” both mean there are multiples, but their meaning is based on an expected number. “A few” implies there are multiples but not a large multiple. “Several” implies the numbers are somewhat larger than you might expect. So “several” is larger than “a few” within the same measurement, but three houses would be “several” while ten M&Ms could be a few.

It’s important to note that these are not precise terms. Their utility lies in their imprecision. Picking out number ranges for each is misguided at best.

As for the unit in question, miles, if someone told me something was a few miles away, I’d expect it to be 2-4, and if they said “several” I’d think perhaps 3-8. But those numbers would change if, rather than being spoken of in abstract geographical terms it was being spoken of while travelling, and that’d be affected by my mode of transport: walking, cycling, skating, driving, flying…They’re relative, ambiguous terms.

a couple-few <= several :smiley:

I know it’s nitpicky as hell, but a couple = 2. Period. Not 3, not 1, but TWO. And only two!

That said I consider “few” to be 3 and “several” to be 3-7.

0 < smidgen < one

In my family, one was one (duh), 2 was “a couple of”, 3 was “a few”, 4-7 were “several” and above that you referred to the actual number. I have no idea why, all I know is if you used the wrong one you got corrected.

Still do.

one < a couple < a few < several < a bunch < a dozen < many

Well, depending on the context, “couple” can mean “approximately two”. For example, $2.12 is a couple bucks, and 1.95 miles is a couple miles.

But I will admit to saying “I’ll throw in a couple bucks” and handing over five dollars. To me, while a COUPLE literally means 2, with money, somehow, it can mean 2-6