Have a couple of hours to kill?
The latest issue of CJR's Language Corner, a column on grammar gaffes, covers "couple." Is it singular? Plural? Can it switch?
The principle grammarians invoke is "notional agreement" - if the idea is plural, make the verb plural. Deciding about that can require thought, though, not just a knee jerk. Worse yet, the difference in meaning is sometimes so minute that either singular or plural works.If you've never visited this CJR gem, carve some time out to stay there awhile. It's written by Evan Jenkins, a former copy editor at the New York Times and Newsday.
The Web site is great, listing the last few articles in chronological order and then filing all the columns by issues such as Borne Out, with an "E", Danglers and That, Omission of.