Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

Could of, should of, would of

with 192 comments

I’ve been wanting to write about ‘could of, should of, would of’ for a while. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m a language purist, not a language fascist, and I am interested (amongst other things) in the way language changes through its use.

‘Could of, should of, would of’ is a very good case in point. When I first read ‘I should of seen it coming’ instead of ‘I should’ve seen it coming’ I was convinced it was incorrect. After all, ‘of’ is a preposition (or rather, an adposition) and in ‘should’ve’ , the ‘ve’ is a contraction of ‘have’. I.e. ‘ve’ and ‘of’ have nothing in common, apart from (mabye) their pronunciation.

Anyhow, some months after my first encounter with ‘should of’ (and its siblings ‘could of’ and ‘would of’), I read somewhere that it’s now in fact gramatically correct to use these forms, i.e. in writing. Thus, incorrect terms via common usage have become correct. The reason for my post is to (hopefully) collate some more information on this matter – I couldn’t find any good discussion on ‘could of, should of, would of’, apart from the links below:

This guy here claims these forms are incorrect.

Here‘s a linguist’s take on the matter.

What do you guys think? Is it correct or incorrect? Any supporting evidence welcome.


PS: I’d also be interested in the differences between AE and BE regarding the matter. I see it a lot in BE; however, I don’t read much AE at all so I wouldn’t know how common this problem is in AE.

Written by lenina

2006 Dec 6 at 09:58

192 Responses

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  1. I don’t think I could be more firmly on the side of incorrect here. I agree that there’s a point at which historically incorrect pronunciations and various uses of words eventually are considered correct once they’re used enough, whatever that means, but this is different to me.

    For one thing, using “should of” in a sentence doesn’t even make sense. It’s, like, missing a verb (or half of it, at least). Regardless of how many people are saying “should of” these days, which for me continues to induce immediate vomiting, I don’t think the grammar world should accept social changes that actually remove essential components of sentences. Contractions are confusing enough for most people to handle, as we have noted before. Who knows though? Maybe there are other precedents for that and I just don’t know about it.

    AE? BE? What?


    2006 Dec 6 at 13:07

    • I understand that today’s mistakes eventually become acceptable, but that’s no reason to stop correcting people so early. The reason “could of” will become standard is that the ignorant outnumber everyone else, and therefore get to make the rules. It makes me sad.

      Some jerk

      2009 Aug 28 at 13:34

      • It shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a shambles.

        Mister X

        2009 Nov 3 at 12:50

      • As long as we do not belong to the knuckle-dragging ignoramus class to which I believe people who insist on butchering the language in this manner belong, I am ok. But the fear is that soon enough, only the ignoramus class will remain…

        Jerk too

        2009 Nov 12 at 15:08

      • Glaringly inane and stupid…a clear manifestation of the user’s lack of attention paid to his (or her) third grade English teacher. And a linguist would actually rationalize this?

        Jerk too

        2009 Nov 12 at 15:14

      • It makes me EXTREMELY sad also. Is it one of those awful (but now common) cases of “no-one should be made to feel inferior”? Are we therefore expected to accept that Should of, Could of, Would of can now be used in writing and that it is correct? It does not just make me sad, it makes me FURIOUS!! I am a foreigner (French) and when I was learning English, I was expected to speak and write it correctly! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH LANGUAGE???

        Michelle Thomson

        2012 Jul 19 at 06:09

    • I teach middle school English. I see should of in my students writing frequently, and I can’t stand it. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. I believe “should” and “have” are a helping verb and a to be verb. I could look up the name of the tense — past imperfect, maybe? In any case, “of” is a preposition and cannot be used as part of a verb. No dice. Sorry kids.


      2010 Aug 3 at 09:44

      • Judy, you made my day. I am also a teacher, but I take a different view of things, as I understand the changes that language take. To assume that there is something out there that can properly defined as “standard English” is a Myth. Go on, try it. If someone took the time to travel about the country and view classroom texts, that person would find that even among these there are arguments about what can be considered proper or standard English. The reason for this, you ask?

        It is because language is ever-evolving. Let’s take the double negative for example. Nearly all mistaken English teachers would claim (rant?) that a double negative is just poor grammar. Did any of you know that Shakespeare (and his fellow man) commonly used a double negative in all its correct form. Originally, it was meant to emphasize the usage of a negative. Since then, it has changed, as I’m sure it will do so again.

        Instead of ranting about a subject you think you know something about, you should of taken a few linguistic classes to expand your understanding on a the subject of English language.


        2011 May 23 at 08:47

      • Instead of being a condescending dick, you should have waited for a response. She may or may not know that the language is ever-evolving. And she may or may not believe (as you and I both seem to) that it’s a perfectly normal and acceptable phenomenon.
        That being said, not all changes to the English language are good. I’ll let grammatical errors slide, especially when there is NO confusion about what the person means. In this case, the error can breed ambiguity. Worse, we lose a verb; therefore, the sentence cannot make any sense. This is the purest example of a grammatical error that is unacceptable. “Of” is not replacing the word “have” in all language; just in this construction. An entire tense is being eliminated and the use of another word (“of”) is being expanded in a way that doesn’t make sense. This isn’t an example of slang entering the language.


        2011 Aug 13 at 17:52

    • I would like to address this to the blogger himself/herself…

      Please stop trying so hard to be good at correcting grammar when in fact you don’t even know the matter!

      you are just making things worse.

      alphabet pudding

      2011 Oct 14 at 12:13

    • I like you. “Should of” makes me want to pluck my eyes out, and I don’t even speak english as a first language!


      2012 Mar 7 at 23:57

    • Nothing, and I mean NOTHING irritates me more in English language than people who say ‘would OF’ and ‘should of’. I want to scream every time I see it, which unfortunately is a hundred times a day. I agree with you, educated people need to stop it.

      Michelle Wild

      2015 Mar 31 at 16:32

  2. It really ought to be “shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

    AE = American English
    BE = British English


    2006 Dec 6 at 19:04

    • You know what? They make more sense!
      They are simple derivatives of the originals.
      They use the letter A, the first vowel of hAve rather O, making them more correct than SE

      (SE = Stoopids English)


      2016 Dec 7 at 02:16

  3. sorry, I should have explained what AE and BE stand for. I live in Britain (Scotland, actually) and AE spellings hurt my eyes, though I know of course AE is as correct as BE.


    2006 Dec 7 at 05:26

    • You still haven’t explained what AE and BE mean. I realize that someone else has included “AE = American English BE = British English” which could possibly by some people be construed as defining these two contrived initialisms, and I am guessing that you are referring to that comment with your comment here. However, the lack of a reference to that person’s comment leaves us guessing as to what you are actually referring.

      Also, I realize that this blog post is more than ten years old, and some will feel that my comments are unnecessary because of this, for some reason. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If this post exists, someone will refer to it and, just like using a dictionary or referencing any book, it is as fresh to each new reader as it was the day it was typed by the owner of the blog. Time doesn’t change anything, and in fact it can’t change anything-with regard to these words, of course. Just because you’re done with it, that doesn’t mean it goes away.

      It is the same as the printing in a book, as long as it remains unchanged, that is. Except for the comments. I assume we can’t change ours, but I have no use for that sort of option in the first place.

      Commander Cool

      2017 Dec 1 at 08:00

  4. I was mortified to read that “should of” (and its siblings) could possibly be considered correct usage!!! What the hell is the world coming to?!?!? Oh, I already know – a nation of illiterate, inarticulate idiots. As if American English wasn’t hard enough to learn, understand or teach. YIKES!!!


    2006 Dec 8 at 14:30

  5. […] There’s a ‘misspellings’ category on Wiktionary, here, which I wanted to share with fellow language enthusiasts. It just lists common misspellings. Our old friend ’should of’ is listed there as incorrect. There are also some other favourites of mine, including ‘definately’, ‘occurence’, and even another one of these pesky ‘apostrophe – s’ cases: ‘April Fool’s Day’. […]

  6. […] in Daily life, PhD, English, thesis. trackback Oh dear, maybe I should stop (guest)writing for LanguageRules! One of my required corrections (minor amendments re: my PhD thesis) is the […]

  7. No way in hell can the word “of” EVER follow “could”, “would” or “should”, unless separated by a comma.


    2007 Jan 8 at 13:29

    • “No way in hell can the word “of” EVER follow “could”, “would” or “should”, unless separated by a comma” – try putting “course” after it: I would of course say, we should of course go, you could of course come …..


      2009 May 31 at 11:23

      • The “would of course say” is itself standard but incorrect, it should *technically* have a comma before and after it; “would, of course, say”

        Mister X

        2009 Nov 3 at 12:53

      • “should have”, as in: I should have went to the store, I have no milk. GRRRRRR . . . of course, it is equally irritating when people use the wrong their, there, and they’re its just like kids not having to actually do their “times tables”, (the 12 X 12 grids from 3rd grade) Eventually this will be correct: There teachers should of taught them kids they’re math and english. WOW! We should, of course, continue to allow this “dumbing down” of society.


        2013 Jun 30 at 12:35

    • What about, for example, ‘She saw as much as she could of Charles’?


      2011 Mar 31 at 08:42

      • This is SURELY the only exception. It is a great one & I’m glad you mentioned it. Just shows you that not everyone takes EVERYTHING into consideration, but rather everything they are familiar with.


        2011 Dec 15 at 11:50

      • I’m actually now thinking it should be “She saw as much as she could have of Charles.”.


        2012 Jan 4 at 19:23

      • Kate,

        It’s because the meaning is different. People who use ‘could of’ interchangeably with ‘could have’ mean to say, for example, ‘She could of seen more of Charles’ (correctly, ‘she could have seen more’…etc.) – using ‘She saw as much as she could of Charles’ is using a different context of the word ‘of’.

        And RealEveryDay, I believe you’re correct. ‘Could have of’ sounds better than ‘could of’, but now I’m not sure.


        2012 Jun 6 at 20:40

      • Kate – Isn’t your example a contraction of “She saw as much as she could [SEE] of Charles” – i.e. the verb SEE which is associated with the modal “could” is implied in this case? That makes the “of” correct.


        2012 Oct 12 at 12:50

      • ‘She saw as much as she could of Charles’. Sorry, but I’ll weigh in and say that’s still wrong and leaves ambiguity. Is she sick and tired of seeing him, or is she seeing him as much as possible?

        ‘She saw as much as she could handle of Charles’ or ‘She saw as much as she could have seen of Charles’.


        2015 Oct 1 at 11:51

  8. It makes a lot of sense to write “could of”, since that is how it is pronounced. Are these writers actually confusing the preposition “of” with the auxiliary “have”?

    However, I’m sure it is not considered standard. However again, I find it hard to believe that such a spelling is indicative of being inarticulate. The ability to spell is very weakly tied to mental ability.


    2007 Feb 7 at 10:58

    • It is not pronounced of, in the contraction could’ve, the ‘ve is pronounced uv.

      Iain Charles

      2012 Nov 17 at 19:53

  9. “should of” makes sense, since that is how it is pronounced. Are the people who use it really removing essential components of sentences, or are they just making a simple spelling mistake based on pronunciation? If they were really confused about “of” and “have” then we might expect them to write things like “the city have New York” and “the leaning tower have Pisa,” and they don’t.


    2007 Feb 7 at 15:40

    • Strawmanning isn’t your forte, ‘madbandril’. This is, *have* course, nothing to do with mixing up words – it is a question *have* not *of*ing recognised that the “‘ve” on the truncated forms *have* “Would have, could have, should have.” sounds more like “of” than a shortened “have”.

      Mister X

      2009 Nov 3 at 12:58

    • Yes, they are obviously confused about the differences between. The words “of” and “have”, as they are using the words incorrectly. They don’t sound or look the same, and they don’t have any other similarities. They are two different words that are not interchangeable. Pretending that they are so that ignorance can be overlooked might make people feel less embarrassed for not paying attention to elementary school grammar and spelling, but that doesn’t somehow make a ridiculous and lazy error such as this correct. If everyone wrote a language the way they wanted to, we would cease to be able to communicate in a way that can be comprehended by others.

      That is the reason written language exists in the first place. Ambiguity would negate this function entirely, and the universe would split in three while simultaneously imploding o. Itself.

      There are already rules (not guidelines) set up for pronouncing and writing English. We don’t each get to make up new examples of those rules arbitrarily, just like you can’t change the rules in the middle of a game. Because if you do that you’re just an asshole, or possible seven years old. Apologizing for the dummies doesn’t make them correct in any way, it just makes you look ignorant and incorrect as well. Nothing can change that.

      Commander Cool

      2017 Dec 1 at 08:20

  10. I would not suggest that people are confused in their understanding of both “of” and “have”, since both phrases “should of” and “should’ve” carry the same intended meaning. breaking it down purposefully more people might see the error involved in using the “of” form, however I expect it goes undetected since the pronounciations are the same and the intended meanings are the same.

    It is a naive opinion to assume language does not change and therefore there is an absolute right and wrong about everything when it comes to linguistics, but personally I do dislike to see terms and phrases that were previously viewed to be genuine errors, slipping into mainstream use and acceptance. In my opinion this is not an area in which I would like to see more “growth of language”. Different to/than/from is another case in point, but another discussion for another day!


    2007 Jul 21 at 00:04

    • Language changes, of course. We don’t go around using ‘thee’ and ‘thy’ anymore. However, ‘should of’ and ‘should have’ cannot possibly carry the same grammatically correct meaning, intended or not, if one is completely incorrect.

      Yes, language changes, but if I were to ask someone ‘And what is thy name?’ as opposed to ‘And what is your name?’, it would still be grammatically correct, as opposed to substituting ‘have’ with ‘of’.

      As for ‘intended’ meanings…I hope to high hell you aren’t a linguist, because if you are, you’ll not be making a living much longer.

      In linguistics, ‘intentions’ are nothing. A language is a language, and languages, especially English, have certain rules. It doesn’t matter if someone’s intentions are to say ‘your devilish mannerisms’ instead of ‘you are devilish mannerisms’, it’s still incorrect.

      And if, in ten years, some arrogant guy comes up with “well, to hell with ‘wrong’. The purpose of a language is to understand, not to be correct, so let’s just make everything acceptable! Your, you’re, their, they’re, there, its, it’s, to, too…screw it! They sound the same!”…well, then I’ll be tying weights to my feet and jumping into Niagara Falls.


      2012 Jun 6 at 20:53

  11. ‘Should of’ does not make sense. It is the kind of thing that ought to be taught in school English lessons nowadays but isn’t, like ‘whom’ or the near-dead subjunctive.

    If you say it in its correct form, e.g.:
    ‘I could have stolen the ring.’
    what tense is this in? you answer ‘past’ obviously. The ‘have’ in this sentence goes with the past participle ‘stolen’. This puts it in the past.

    But what does ‘could have’ actually mean? In this context it means ‘would have been able’. In other contexts ‘could’ can mean ‘I would be able(conditional form of ‘can’)’ or ‘I was able(past tense of can)’. Notice something? Verbs like ‘can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might etc.’ are a weird category of verbs , called modal auxiliary verbs, that behave differently; they have no infinitive (to Should?!)as an example.
    My point is that ‘of’ denotes possession or belonging to something, whereas ‘have’ is a commonly used auxiliary verb( much more so in other languages e.g. French, German) so when someone says ‘I could of stolen the ring’, I hear:
    ‘Ike-ud OF Stowlunthering’ It sounds like a hero from an ancient legend, who comes from the fair city of Stowlunthering!

    But hopefully you will realise that I am not some old grouch who wants people to say out-moded grammar for the sake of it. I am all for the evolution of this language, in fact I don’t mind if people pronounce ‘should have’ like ‘should of’ or even ‘shudda’. What they must do if that becomes acceptable is spell it differently. Perhaps ‘shudov or ‘should ov’ would be better.

    The sound a language uses to express something is what is important.
    We should then try to write this sound down as phonetically as possible, NOT liken to an existing word with an entirely different meaning and no link to the sounds formation. This deludes an already bewildered anglophone people. Most can barely remember the difference between a noun verb and adjective, all they know is that they open their mouths and a guttural sound comes from it to express what they want to say. Once you know the components that every language needs, learning a new one is easy, its like big chart to be filled in: 1st 2nd and 3rd person pronouns and/or verb endings, singular and plural. the way to form each tense, the irregularities, basic vocab lists for manners, food, house, sports and hobbies etc. and hey presto you know the language!


    2007 Sep 11 at 17:19

    • the verb phrase ‘could have stolen’ is not ‘in the past’ either in a syntactical sense, nor semantically, does it have a temporal reference of the past only. it is present perfect with the modal auxiliary ‘could’. the point being, it is saying ‘there is a present possibility that in the past someone stole the ring’ the possibility exists only in the present. if the auxiliary verb ‘have’ or its contraction ‘…’ve’ are jettisoned in favour of a meaningless ‘of’, then it is quite possible this distinction could have disappeared from the mind of the producer but (i think more likely) the meaning is understood to be subsumed within the phrase ‘could of’. however, it’s an embarrassing error which shouldn’t be tolerated in my view. it’s nasty.

      i find the contention that learning a new language is simply a matter of filling in a big grammar chart and learning the rules rather amusing.


      2009 Oct 17 at 09:12

      • Your paragraphs should start with capital letters Ken ?
        In fact the first para. could easily be sectioned to make it more understandable and less of a “ramble”.
        Sloppy English old boy !


        2011 Oct 12 at 15:26

    • I do like the example “that ‘of’ denotes possession or belonging to something, whereas ‘have’ is a commonly used auxiliary verb”. I think the original meaning of “have” involved possession as well, and that it was tampered with in order to create it’s current usage possibilities. To my mind then, denying such modification for a particle like “of” cannot be logically justified in this way.


      2011 Apr 11 at 11:39

  12. As a native German speaker I’d like to give an “outsider’s” point of view on this matter. Even though I might make other mistakes I still cringe every time I read would/could/should of, especially if I can conclude from the context with some certainty that the author is a native English speaker. That said, my English isn’t perfect but “would/should/could of” are such glaring mistakes that I think it should not be tolerated and the culpable authors should be reminded of this.


    2007 Nov 8 at 09:24

    • I agree. It is akin to pointing out food on ones face. A mistake this obvious says to everyone else that you’re ignorant or worse. What I find funny, is that instead of thanking me for advising them of the correct spelling (a.k.a telling them they have food on their face), instead they call me a ‘grammer-nazi’ (yes they spell grammar wrong too). I correct them and say, “I’m a grammar-guardian” and you’re still wet behind the ears. I usually proceed to block them and lose a little more faith in humanity and am reminded of the movie “Idiocracy”. A sad reminder of what will become if somehow we don’t stop this training wreck in motion.


      2015 Oct 1 at 12:07

  13. For those who believe “It makes a lot of sense to write “could of”, since that is how it is pronounced”:

    Actually, I don’t know anybody who says the phrase in so distinct a manner. Most people I know actually say it as “could’ve” – but because spelling has become so devalued in this culture, they haven’t the first clue how to properly write it. Some have argued that this doesn’t matter, since people still clearly understand the definition between “have” and “of”. My rebuttal is: if they truly did, they wouldn’t write down improperly in the first place, and it is only a matter of time before you DO start seeing phrases like “I of two hands” or “President Have The United States”.


    2007 Nov 16 at 10:33

  14. Another outsider point of view from a French speaker. I couldn’t believe it when I first read ‘could of’ on the internet. I was like damn that’s really a stupid mistake, but I read it so many times that I understood that it was the way illiterate people understood it. These people never read a book or a newspaper, they were deaf in school and hey that’s what they think they’re saying COULD OF. They don’t know what an auxiliary verb is. This mistake is awful since it says the same as : I’m illiterate.


    2008 Feb 18 at 17:12

    • Exactly. Heck, my 8-year-old cousin in America (not a native speaker) knows how to spell “should’ve”, and so many adult native speakers don’t. She also knows the difference between “you’re” and “your”, “they’re”, “their” and “there”, and even “it’s” and “its”. So, they do teach that stuff; schools can’t be that bad. Why is it so hard for people to grasp these things?


      2015 Oct 14 at 23:13

  15. I know of many people that use “should of” in their daily conversations with no knowledge that is may be wrong, personally I say it is wrong but I would not use should’ve either I prefer should have, that is my personal choice, once the term should’ve would have been wrong so language evoles who WOULD OF guessed. We need to teach our children with some fun outdoor games that help them learn the correct way to speak, it result in less degredation of our language.

    Sally D

    2008 Feb 22 at 06:29

  16. If someone is speaking out loud what has that go to do with how they spell things? If someone says something that sounds like ‘should’ve’ when they talk do you stop to ask them how they spell it?

    If that person doesn’t know that “should’ve” is a contracted “should have” and writes down “should of” it is wrong. Just because we know what they really meant doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    If someone who doesn’t know that it should be spelled “should’ve” or “should have” is talking, how do you know if they are saying “should of”, or “should’ve”? “Should’ve” is perfectly legitimate, and the fact that it sounds like “should of” is simply unfortunate.


    2008 Mar 25 at 13:21

    • I completely agree. If English speakers (particularly Americans) were to spell everything the way it was pronounced, well, we’d be the laughingstock of the world.

      Not that we aren’t already.

      A snippet of what would happen…

      Soh, I hav tu sey, I luv the nyu cahr wee boht; its ahsum, ryt?

      Jesus, I just gave myself an aneurysm typing that up.
      At least it’s got proper punctuation.


      2012 Jun 6 at 21:00

      • Well, from what I see, people don’t write much better on Facebook :)


        2015 Oct 14 at 23:15

  17. I fink dat shud ov shud b da propr way 2 rite it…

    Obviously I don’t write like that, I was just using that as an example to show that just because something is pronounced a certain way, spelling it as it is pronounced doesn’t make it correct…

    It’s basically the same principle as “two”, “to”, and “too”.
    “I would like to go too” is correct, as you are saying you would like to go with whoever the person in question was (eg)
    “I would like to go to” is incorrect in this sense as there is no place name after the “to”
    “I would like to go two” is so incorrect it hurts, unless, of course, it’s a small child talking about their lavatorial needs…

    Simply, “should/could/would of” is just plain wrong, no questions asked…


    2008 Mar 25 at 17:42

  18. I am at a loss to understand why people think should’ve and should of are pronounced the same. They aren’t (or are not . . . . ). Say them both out loud – they are NOT THE SAME !

    Christine Townsend

    2008 Apr 7 at 02:28

  19. […] take a leaf out of PDLM’s book, esp. in TEFL and would-be-tutor context), do take a look at this: Could of, should of, would of, will of… . Thanks! What is that link too though, my ad blocker doesn’t like it. […]

  20. I could dent understand would of either the first time I read it. If you had trouble with could dent in the previous sentence, then you understand how should of looks to a lot of people.


    2008 May 27 at 12:07

  21. Eye cant bee leave this iz even being discussed. If ewe ewes “could of, should of, and would of” ewe will look like a complete and utter more on. Bee where.


    2008 Jul 23 at 04:17

  22. It is no more pronounced ‘could of’ as it is ‘could ev’ ‘could av’ ‘could uv’ or ‘could iv’ so let’s not use that to justify it.


    2008 Aug 13 at 12:10

  23. The english language is one of the most confusing languages on earth with almost every rule having more exceptions than applications. It always saddens me when I read comments that try to make fun of people who accidentally use or spell a word incorrectly. Are we really so shallow and arrogent that we think that good grammar and good spelling indicate intelligence? Some of the stupidist things I have ever read were well written, but they were still stupid. Content has got to be more important than packaging. I entered “could of” into Google and found that it was used more than three million times in titles alone. Are we really justified in concluding that all of these people are ignorant?

    Is good grammar important, to a degree, yes. But in looking at some web pages that advocate good grammar I found this common theme that I copy and paste for your consideration. “A well-spoken person always stands out and sounds much more educated than they actually may be. ”

    My education was short on grammar, and over the years my spelling has gotten worse, my typos aren’t helping things any. I honestly enjoy hearing and reading our language used artisticly and correctly. But occasionally I come accross someone’s words that touch me and change me, and such content impresses me regardless of the grammar.


    2008 Aug 22 at 01:05

    • i’m reading you’re post and i think your write. understanding one’s idea should be based on what people of to say and not how they express it. i mean when my cat is hungry it goes like “maow” and i feed him. no need from picky grammatists her.


      2009 May 31 at 09:16

      • The difference is that we are not cats, we’re human beings with hopefully the ability to communicate messages in a clear manner. Surely my 3 months old boy make me understand he’s hungry by crying, although I’ll expect him to communicate this differently when he’ll be a grown up.


        2010 Sep 22 at 08:59

    • [quote]I entered “could of” into Google and found that it was used more than three million times in titles alone. Are we really justified in concluding that all of these people are ignorant?[/quote]

      What is really discussed here is education, and what is “education”?

      I find this description to be a good definition of that question: “The knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process.”

      You say you found about 3 million hits on Google with the phrase “could of” in the title. Then you ask if we really think every usage of this phrase is the result of an ignorant person?

      Firstly, the amount of inhabitants of this globe is reaching 7 Billion, so in that context 3 million is a drop in the ocean.

      Secondly, ignorant to me is a choice, it is something you are choosing to be purposely.

      My view of this “could of, should of would of” is a result of many factors, but the main factor to me is “poor education”, of course slang and misuse/abuse on purpose is also a present factor, but ignorant no, that is a deliberate act.

      For those of us that have the luxury of education we are taught how to write and talk in a certain way, which has been passed along through scholars from the beginning of time and we are given the correct guidelines of how to express ourselves through writing and speech.

      When the majority of educated people read “Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve” we know this is an abbreviation of two words “Could have, Should have, Would have”, the confusion arrives with it’s pronunciation ending: ‘uv which sounds similar to “of”.

      The most logical conclusion would be that non-English speaking people were the first to misuse these spoken words in writing, but that of course is just a wild guess from my part, native-English speaking people contribute just as much to this misconception.

      To conclude this “little” article of mine i just want to say that all this “could of, should of, would of” nonsense is a result of laziness and poor education.


      2009 Jun 4 at 05:14

      • [quote]The most logical conclusion would be that non-English speaking people were the first to misuse these spoken words in writing, but that of course is just a wild guess from my part, native-English speaking people contribute just as much to this misconception.[/quote]

        Being a non-native speaker, this kind of mistakes is just so obvious to me. I guess this is because I always try to write as correctly as I can. Since it’s not my language, I don’t feel I can liberties with it — at least not yet. And as I far as I can tell, I see much more of those mistakes in the words of native than non-native speakers. Probably because we do care about spelling things right, we want people to understand what we’re writing, we don’t expect them to understand no matter how many spelling mistakes we make. I think non-native speakers tend to do a lot more mistakes related to meaning and idiomatic expressions, we tend to transpose expressions from our own language to English or use words that don’t really fit in the context even though their meaning is close to what we want to express. But we definitely try to spell right because again English is a foreign for us and if we don’t follow grammar rules and spelling, we’re not sure people will understand.
        It’s probably the same way in most languages. I know for a fact that the vast majority of misuses of the French language is due to French people.


        2009 Aug 18 at 10:56

      • usually a non-english speaker (non-native) will not make this kind of mistake. they are tought from the beginning to speak properly so this doesn’t even enter their mind.


        2010 Aug 11 at 03:43

      • I bet you that every person who wrote “could of”, “should of” etc. was a native English speaker. Foreigners don’t make such mistakes.


        2015 Oct 14 at 23:23

    • Hi Daniel!

      I want to be your friend. I was just reading comments and saw your opinion. You’re beutiful hearted person.


      2009 Jul 3 at 09:44

  24. In reading your post I noticed you made five spelling mistakes. However, I will not make fun of you because of this. I cannot help notice, though, that you quickly label people shallow and arrogent (sic).
    Do good grammar and good spelling indicate intelligence? I certainly think they do, though they do not guarantee it. First and foremost they indicate a person who has respect for his or her language and for the culture from which it derives. That respect carries with it a responsibility to use the language correctly and ensure that succeeding generations do too. Otherwise, not only the language, but the culture itself is degraded over time.
    I also disagree with your “content/packaging argument.” Language is content, not packaging. If one breaks or ignores the rules of grammar, one alters the content of what one is trying to convey.
    Some people like to use the argument that language is constantly evolving. I agree completely. However, I reject it as a cover up for ignorance or sloth. Please remember that evolution too has its rules and takes place in a logical manner. A fish does not suddenly evolve into a bird, but a different kind of fish. “Could of” is a bird to the fish called “could’ve.”
    Finally, please do not resort to the argument of numbers. Can we conclude that more than three million people around the world (though I suspect most are in the UK and USA) are ignorant? Of course we can! How many people in the USA still believe the lie of 9/11? How many voted for Bush in 2004? I rest my case.


    2008 Sep 7 at 07:13

    • thre is norway they could of landed on he moon too.


      2009 May 31 at 09:25

    • Bravo! Very well stated indeed! I completely agree with you: language in all its facets (orthography, grammar, vocabulary) is an essential component of a message’s context. One of my favourite examples is “there”, “their” and “they’re” — the latter being a contraction of they are. I see these three words misused and abused on a constant basis (just like its and it’s), and I assure you that they cannot be used synonymously as the following linguistic demonstration illustrates:

      “There, chairs!” — an exclamation frequently heard at airports by fatigued travellers, and followed by a sigh of relief.

      “These are their chairs.” — Sorry, these seats are already taken, and you have to move your tired rear-end elsewhere.

      “They’re chairs.” — This only makes sense in elementary school theatre productions where children sometimes “play” furniture.

      Also, I beg to differ with you that intelligence, education, and linguistic ability are not related. Ignorance may be a choice, but it’s often a choice made due to lack of education and intelligence.

      I read many different blogs, but spelling and grammatical errors immediately make me hit my browser’s back button. If you don’t take the time to express something properly, it probably should not be said/written/stated at all, and it certainly will not be read by me. So far, I haven’t missed out on anything worthwhile.

      P.S. Even if somebody’s education did not supply sufficient grammar lessons, one can always study on one’s own time. There is a plethora of books, Web pages, and classes. Personally, I recommend studying Latin; it will make you understand and appreciate your native tongue’s grammatical structures. You have my word on that!


      2009 Oct 9 at 13:36

    • Your use of “First and foremost” is incorrect English. It is like using: second and secondly.


      2016 Jun 28 at 12:41

  25. i think so that should of, could of, would of is mis conception of should have etc..
    so some peolple to use incollect language are right


    2008 Sep 11 at 11:16

  26. I am not surprised that I had five spelling mistakes. It is amusing that you say that you will not make fun of me for this but you couldn’t help pointing it out. I didn’t bother taking the time to proof read and even if I had I would have probably missed them. I am a hillbilly after all.

    I get the feeling this subject, like most subjects in life, have conflicting and yet valid perspectives. I didn’t mean to insinuate that good grammar is shallow or arrogent, and I apologize for the way I said it. Take a look at the preceding comments and I think you would have to agree most of them are on the snobbish side.

    As for content verses packaging, you are entitled to your opinion, as am I. I have read a lot of things that were well written but still really shallow and illogical. But I have to admit that a lot of good ideas have gone unnoticed because someone like me dressed them in the the shabby clothes of bad grammar.

    You lost me on the “how many people still believe the lie of 9/11.” It happened. I am guessing that you are referring to the using of this event to justify the war in Iraq and the destruction of liberities for the so called sake of security. If so than I couldn’t agree more. As for voting for Bush, we weren’t offered much of a choice and know one will ever know if old-what’s-his-name would have done any better.

    In keeping with the subject of Grammar and education, and just for fun, here are some famous quotes.

    It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.
    Robert Green Ingersoll

    I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.
    Michel de Montaigne

    Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
    Oscar Wilde

    When a thought takes one’s breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.
    Thomas W. Higginson


    2008 Sep 14 at 23:16

  27. A suggestion, should it not be:

    AE – American English

    E – English


    2008 Nov 17 at 09:17

  28. Wow. I have been getting so sick lately of reading posts, comments, etc., by people with no concept of the grammar.
    “i would of rather” I think they mean to use the contraction “would’ve”. Yet, here again, they’re(they are) hooked on phonics.


    2009 Jan 15 at 14:59

  29. hey…. this sentence is written in one American short story (Ring Lardner: Haircut): ´If Milt hadn´t of been so hoggish, he´d of ordered….´ etc. So, where´s the truth when you can find it even in literature?


    2009 Mar 1 at 16:07

    • I just read that story. The author, to emphasize how the character talks, uses phonetics. Obviously, the author isn’t trying to pass that off as grammatically correct, he uses “ain’t” several times as well.


      2010 Feb 19 at 16:34

  30. Old article, but still a fresh topic. Good.

    Having been taught various aspects of linguistics explicitly as well as being in close contact with linguistics researchers, I find it bizarre that ´should of´ and its brothers are claimed to be grammatically correct. You can back it up, saying it´s phonetically correct, but that too depends on your dialects. Don´t bother saying English have no dialects. I don´t care much about pronunciation as long as it´s intelligible, but I do care about the use of ´should of´ in written English.

    In a teacher´s perspective, I don´t think this issue should ever be brought up in the first place unless provided with strong evidences (universally recognised arguments and counter-arguments, with references to researches/literary works). When dealing with students, I just cannot accept essays containing ´should of´, ´would of´ and the likes.

    @peggy: I think you should first be aware of some basic concepts of the nature of ĺiterary language´. If you are aware of them, you should know that ´deviations´ exist in literature, especially when the piece of literature is viewed as ´text´.


    2009 Mar 11 at 06:05

  31. I don’t think my grammar is all that, but it still really does annoy me to read ‘should of’ and its “siblings”.
    Just the other day as I sat on the tube, I looked up and there was a Nivea advert, some silver deodrant for men, and the first line included ‘would of’ and I just thought uurrgghh!


    2009 Mar 18 at 21:56

  32. It doesnt even make sense.


    2009 Mar 24 at 08:11

  33. There are plenty of cromulently “incorrect” formulations that make some sense; “should of” is not one of them.


    2009 Mar 31 at 02:16

  34. NM, you might want to embiggen your comment a bit.

    Anyway, I think what the use of “should of” really does is betray the lack of time spent reading on the part of whoever makes the mistake. I read a lot of books in my youth, and it’s no coincidence that I haven’t been marked off for a grammatical or spelling misstep in a school paper since third grade (barring typos). I’ve also won several elementary/middle school spelling bees, and my vocabulary is vast compared to the majority of adults. Hell, even when I watched TV I’d put the closed captioning on so I could read along and not miss anything. When I have kids I’m going to put on CC and remove the corresponding button from the remote.


    2009 Apr 9 at 13:28

  35. I wouldn’t of known before but the beginning of this sentence now seems so blatantly incorrect! I had never given it much thought until reading this debate. Paying attention to the differences between ‘of’ and ‘have’ certainly did the trick for me.

    Thanks word nerds!


    2009 Apr 15 at 10:08

  36. How can “should of” possibly be justified with the excuse of “evolving” written English to more closely resemble spoken English? Following that train of thought, we should consolidate all the homophones in the English language:

    – “their”, “there”, “they’re” all become “their”
    – “too”, “to”, “two” all become “to”
    – “know”, “no” become “no”
    – “knew”, “new” become “new”
    – “aisle”, “I’ll”, “isle” become “aisle”
    – etc.

    Aisle right a test sentence or to to sea weather yew’d like this or naught. Of cause this their grammar could of caused a lot of confusion, if this was any kind of important sentence.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d find English a rather horrific language with this level of ambiguity. There is a reason why there exist distinct written forms for words which have different meanings, even if they sound the same. “Should of” is NOT an exception.

    Not knowing how to correctly spell “should’ve”/”would’ve”/”could’ve” only shows that you don’t know what the original form of this contraction is, which
    a) most likely stems from the fact that you rarely read [anything with any level of attention] and
    b) do not grasp the meaning of some basic elements of the language you use to communicate every day, which
    c) leaves whatever content you are trying to convey with a stale aftertaste.

    There are certainly the occasional exceptions that prove the rule, genius thoughts wrapped in poor grammar. But generally, poor grammar is an indicator of a lack of attention to detail, which may undermine the whole point you were trying to make.


    2009 Apr 18 at 00:26

  37. would of, should of, must of, could of, may of (!) are all non-standard, ungrammatical, and in a prescriptive sense: wrong.

    The use of “hadn’t of” by Ring Lardner: this is Ring writing informally and using the vernacular of his character. He is imitating SPOKEN language in this quote. This does nothing to validate the construction as acceptable WRITTEN language.

    Today I came across this (which eventually led me to this thread):

    “If she’d of…”

    So not only do we have

    would of/could of as obscene substitutes for “would’ve” and “could’ve”…

    we have

    “she’d of” as a substitute for “she would/could have”. Granted “she’d’ve may seem ponderous, but at least it’s correct.

    Language is always evolving. And this form “would of” (et al.) may someday be considered mainstream. But it isn’t yet.


    2009 May 6 at 19:08

    • I’ve seen people write “to of been”.


      2015 Oct 14 at 23:40

  38. Since the blunder simply consists of people spelling Should’ve the way it sounds rather than the way it is spelled, and there is grammatical reason for it to be have:

    Should’ve=Should Have. The past (have) ought to be this way (should)

    Should of=???

    Of indicates possession or origin, and makes no sense as a replacement for should. Unless reading aloud, the sentence loses sense.

    Plus, of course, if we’re going to start accepting phonetic spellings, well, why not say that “Git yore ass back to the vee hickle” is acceptable, given how many texans pronounce it that way?


    2009 May 23 at 21:06

  39. Seeing ‘should of’ in a sentence really annoys the hell out of me. So many people that I’ve encountered in forums on the internet are starting to use it and it bugs me. But I guess this is all beside the point.

    I’m not an English language expert but I ‘should of’ is just so wrong. If only people would stop using it.


    2009 May 26 at 07:55

  40. people, we simply DO NOT write the way we speak. English is a complicated language because of its spelling system – in fact, English-speaking countries, as far as I know, are the only ones wherein we still have spelling CONTESTS.

    I am a writing mentor, and I encounter strangest spelling from time to time, for instance “there of been changes”, “there is know evidence”, “we have to consider there (their) impact” etc etc

    It hurts, but I am a linguist, who should accept thelanguage as organic and ever-changing. we should not consider misspellings a sign of being stupid – only udneducated, but not stupid.

    as a native speaker of Russian, I know how many people misspel words in Russian (a fairly phonetic language), and they are not morons. they just spent the time we spent on reading, on something else.


    2009 Jun 24 at 10:29

  41. English is not my native tongue, but I’ve been learning it since I was 3, so my English is pretty good. Me and a lot of my friends use English in everyday life to practice, so it’s kind of have become my everyday language, because we use it all the time when we’re together.
    I believe that should of, could of and would of are incorrect. Just like SMS language – U, R, cuz, 4ever and all of that crap.
    Besides all of these commonly in everyday writing used misspellings are really confusing for a person who is learning English


    2009 Aug 27 at 04:45

  42. Hi!
    My name´s Kathi and I´m from Austria, so I´m not a native speaker. Therefore I´m already sorry for my bad English! :-)
    At the moment I´m reading a book called “The border trilogy” by Cormac McCarthy.
    He´s one of the best authors of the American History, in my oppinion.
    When I started reading this book, I was confronted with the problem u mentionend above. McCarthy is very used to use such phrases as “I´d of been born…”, “He´d of met somebody…”, ” ..he never would of met her…”, and so on.
    I don´t really know how to understand these phrases or the meaning of the sentences. Therefore I went into “Google” and found your website. i would be very pleased to get an answer from you.


    Kathi Lobnig

    2009 Sep 4 at 12:25

    • If you Google search “of”, 1 of the first results is for which has a pronunciation note that expands on exactly your point.

      “Pronunciation note
      Because the preposition of, when unstressed ( a piece of cake ), and the unstressed or contracted auxiliary verb have ( could have gone, could’ve gone) are both pronounced [uhv] or [uh] in connected speech, inexperienced writers commonly confuse the two words, spelling have as of ( I would of handed in my book report, but the dog ate it ). Professional writers have been able to exploit this spelling deliberately, especially in fiction, to help represent the speech of the uneducated: If he could of went home, he would of.”



      2013 Aug 18 at 13:54

  43. I really can’t believe how common this has become.


    2009 Sep 30 at 14:07

  44. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate this… “Should of” is nowhere near acceptable. It’s a disgrace. If I had to choose, I’d go with shoulda and woulda any day.

    Erik, Sweden.


    2009 Oct 16 at 03:37

    • I came upon this site by searching the web to see if other people are as pissed at “should of” as myself. And voila I am not alone. Thank you.

      ps. I also came upon this link. I hope I am allowed to paste it here. Should of asked :-)


      2009 Dec 21 at 09:28

  45. totally wrong in my opinion.. just looks stupid if you write “should of”.. like a 3 years old talking…


    2009 Nov 11 at 13:16

  46. The use of “of” instead of “‘ve” is an absolute disgrace…

    I can’t imagine how it started.. I mean, it’s not logical in any way.


    2009 Dec 3 at 15:10

  47. Totally out of context of discussion. I’m simply curious as to the implications of communicatio/rhetoric/hyperbaly when a conversation or an essay would be articulated without the words

    Should, Would, Could, If

    Ifa, coulda, woulda, shoulda

    Tony Venuti

    2010 Jan 3 at 20:10

    • If doesn’t belong here!

      Diran George

      2010 Jan 7 at 06:12

  48. We, the properly educated people, are most probably to blame for the culture of incorrect terms being accepted as the normal these days. Let me elaborate.

    In school, English grammar was strict, exact and unforgiving. A detention card ensued if any major mistakes were made. This is only a slight exaggeration, but I digress. We were never allowed to use phonetic and normal abbreviations like “could’ve”, written or spoken.

    Of course, I got older (I am only 27) and the lessons stayed with me for life. I believe that the spoken word is a thousand times more powerful, and easier to remember, than the written word, but we get lazy – it’s (it is) human nature. I know I did!

    With this said, how many of us actually say “could have”? Do you not pronounce it as “could’ve”? Does this not sound like “could of”? I’m not saying this is phonetically identical, but people pick up on words they hear and translate it their own way – exactly like Chinese Whispers – especially when they are younger and if they are not corrected or taught otherwise.

    Current education standards probably don’t (do not) help the situation either. I can’t (can not) really comment as I don’t (do not) have children and I am not a teacher. However, if the same classes were taught today as when I was in school, I am 99.99% sure that the English language would not be the ludicrous existence that it is today!

    Diran George

    2010 Jan 7 at 06:09

    • You got one wrong; “can’t” is actually “cannot” (one word) :)

      However, I’m pretty sure those things are still taught in school, because I have some cousins and know some kids in English speaking countries who (or whose parents) are originally from my country, and they seem to know these things very well. I guess many people just don’t care, and not everyone is a good student after all :)


      2015 Oct 14 at 23:54

  49. I’m an English teacher in Germany, and through teaching I have learnt an enormous amount about this language that I grew up speaking, many things of which, I had never understood until now. People don’t know ‘could of’, etc. is wrong, not because they are uneducated, or they do not read enough, I read a lot of books and often make the mistake of saying should of (and a post above mentioning this grammatical error being published in a historical book shows how common this problem is) or other incorrect forms. I make the mistake, simply because I grew up hearing it from people I had contact with and probably television too.

    Schools today do not formally teach grammar, I never learnt grammar in school and in fact I did not know what a verb was when I was completing my high school certificate (to the astonishment of my year 11 English teacher). So it is truly mean and unfair of many people on this forum to call these people stupid or uneducated as it is not an individual’s fault if they are not even taught something in the first place.

    If you want to do something about it, petition your government to bring back grammar to the school curriculum. And as a teacher (who only now understands English grammar!), that is something I am going to do too.


    2010 Feb 1 at 06:54

    • You never had grammar in school‽ This is truly shocking if true. And would likely actually count as “uneducated,” even if not by your own fault.

      I have to admit I never cared much for grammar of my native tongue and I kept confusing verbs and nouns and all that, but I do distinctly remember having had grammar from year 1.


      2010 Feb 1 at 07:57

      • I agree with the above comment. If this is true, then… Wow… Don’t know what to say… That’s shocking! I was under the impression that all students, in the more developed countries, learned grammar. Of course, I agree that we aren’t taught everything in school. My teacher’s learned lots of things about Danish (which is our native language and which she teaches) while she’s been teaching my class. But I was convinced that grammar was something that all people in our society learned.

        I wouldn’t say that I’m insanely good at English (just started learning about “,” and “.” in school), but I’m definitely above average. I was very confused the first time I saw someone write “could/would/should of”. The fact, that I don’t speak English natively, actually meant, that I thought, this was a correct way to spell this. I’ve always used could’ve but, since this is not my native language, I’m not really confident when using English. Therefore I could’ve started using “could/would/should of” just “to be like everybody else”. I think this is one of the reasons why something like this becomes the norm. People aren’t sure of themselves and just do “like everybody else”. They then go to other areas (like a different forum on the interwebz) and use wrong grammar, leading to more people using “could/would/should of”, thereby spreading the “disease”.

        Luckily Google Chrome has a built-in dictionary. This helps me every day :D

        Danish user of English

        2010 Apr 1 at 16:06

    • OK, I know a lot of children and people who are originally from my country, but grew up in English speaking countries. They all seem to know these things and never make such mistakes. I even see 8-year-old kids who can use “should’ve” correctly, as well as you’re/your, they’re/their/there, and it’s/its. They go to the same schools as native kids, so I’m sure those things are still taught in schools. Maybe some people just don’t pay attention.


      2015 Oct 15 at 00:02

  50. This is a pointless exercise. The important thing here is that should/would/could of is reasonably understood to mean should/would/could have. As long as the intention of the words are communicated properly there shouldn’t be an issue. This is akin to someone being upset that not everyone can correctly form all mathematical formulas. Or not knowing all the laws of physics.

    The point of language is to be able to communicate ideas to one another, not to be perfect in something that is constantly evolving and whose rules are arbitrary to begin with.


    2010 Feb 20 at 01:01

  51. would have, should have, should not have being common, for the fact the the english conquered non speaking english countries without course or justification, in layman’s terms who really cares english is pompish outdated and should be like everything else updated


    2010 Mar 31 at 12:36

  52. Good evening, Happy Fool’s Day!!

    A circus owner walked into a bar to see everyone crowded about a table watching a little show. On the table was an upside down pot and a duck tap dancing on it. The circus owner was so impressed that he offered to buy the duck from its owner. After some wheeling and dealing, they settled for $10,000 for the duck and the pot.
    Three days later the circus owner runs back to the bar in anger, “Your duck is a ripoff! I put him on the pot before a whole audience, and he didn’t dance a single step!”
    “So?” asked the ducks former owner, “did you remember to light the candle under the pot?”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!


    2010 Apr 1 at 18:37

  53. I hate people who get too arrogant about language (apostrophe obsessives piss me off) but “should of” is unacceptable. As some have pointed out, English can be quite complicated, so to allow a sentence structure which makes no sense only complicates it further. This makes it harder to teach and harder to learn – so for the good of our language should not happen.


    2010 May 18 at 21:28

  54. The reason people say “should of” is because it sounds like “should’ve” when you say it. THINK – you are trying to say “should have”, and that is why the apostrophe is there to abbreviate it.


    2010 Jun 14 at 11:41

  55. looking to find what this is called should of, could of, would of, a simple labeling would be fine


    2010 Jun 23 at 12:17

  56. Excuse me? Is it correct or incorrect? What kind of a question is that? I´m a teacher trainer and I fail for this lapsus.


    2010 Jul 18 at 19:13

  57. I guess I will add my opinion for the usage of ‘of’ in place of ‘have’ when appropriate. Personally, I use could of/should of/ would of/etc. etc. in writing and speech for a couple of reasons. First being that in my opinion, ‘have’ breaks the flow of the sentence whereas ‘of’ does not. Second being, I believe it to be much more formal than using an informal contraction in its place, that is to say, more professional. I know others may disagree with me, but you have to remember. English is not a dead language, the meaning and usage of its words change. New words are added, while others become archaic, and wither away. New rules and exceptions are added, while others die out. English never could be puristic, always evolving as it does.

    By the way, before anyone says something about my first reason, no, I will not be saying, “The President have the United States”. :P


    2010 Aug 11 at 06:14

  58. Well, I’m joining the “love boat” to share with you this email I’ve just received from a British Administration, to be more precise. Horrible.

    Dear H XXXXXX

    Thank you for your email.

    Your account has now been closed. You should of received the closing bill which would of confirmed this.

    Yours sincerely

    Operations Assistant
    Finance Dpt
    Islington Council
    Delta House
    4-10 North Road
    N7 9EY


    2010 Sep 22 at 08:53

  59. I’m not native English but I was very surprised when I saw this mistake several times in Internet. However I cannot understand statements of people saying that OF and HAVE have the same pronunciation. I pronunce >OoAe<d" ("ev"). "ov"/"of" and "ev" are completely different, so how can it be possible that people pronounce them the same way? Maybe it's me who is wrong?


    2010 Oct 7 at 17:32

  60. Something is wrong with the text above, I retype it:

    I pronunce OF more like “not” (so kind of “ov”), and HAVE like “bed” (“ev”). “ov”/”of” and “ev” are completely different, so how can it be possible that people pronounce them the same way? Maybe it’s me who is wrong?


    2010 Oct 7 at 17:35

    • I can see two possibilities that do not denote you as “wrong”.

      1 You’re referring to your stressed pronunciation for the word “of” [/ϽV/] and unstressed for the word “have” [/әv/] which are not, in all the dialects of English I have ever heard, homophonous .
      2 You speak a dialect I have never heard before

      Obviously I believe the former to be the correct hypothesis…


      2011 Apr 11 at 11:48

  61. Seeing “of” used instead of “‘ve” or “have” is perhaps the issue that drives me the most insane when it comes to literacy. It’s painfully stupid to look at and indicates that the person writing it is either very young or lacking very basic English education. I’m all for languages evolving but in this case, I just can’t stand it. Any time I see people use those incorrect terms, I have to physically restrain myself from ranting at them. And it seems like more and more people mistakenly think it’s okay to use, especially on message boards, where it’s a plague that seems to be spreading.


    2010 Oct 8 at 20:06

  62. I could imagine some similarity in spoken language, but how can this mistake be done in written English? That’s weird.


    2010 Oct 13 at 05:27

  63. Ugh, really? Linguistics, and more importantly language itself, is much more than whatever the prescriptive grammarians deem as the ‘correct use of language’. The scandalous butchering of your precious language and the gall of some linguistics to suggest “could of” as a grammatically correct construct is most likely just a case of selective reading. Or perhaps the fine upstanding lovers of the English language here are just not capable of understanding such basic linguistic concepts as register, context, co-text, idiolect, sociolect, etc. It never seizes to amaze me how the very people who claim to love the language are the same people who are most likely to enslave, imprison and starve it to death.


    2010 Nov 12 at 18:39

  64. I’m not a native speaker of English but ‘should of’ makes me cringe too, and my respect for the writer immediately goes down since it does look uneducated to me.

    By the way, I read the link mentioned in the original article which supposedly says that ‘should of’ is correct, but all it actually says is that the *pronunciation* as ‘should of’ can be used, nowhere does it say that spelling it like this is correct.


    2011 Jan 2 at 12:35

  65. Of course if we spelled (or is that spelt? :)) and pronounced things in full in the first place, “could have” et al (who’s al? :)) would not have become “could’ve” which then would not have become “cudduv” (or “cudda” as was mentioned earlier) leading to “could of”.

    Whereas most commonly made grammatical errors are relatively minor and still convey the intended meaning (e.g. “I is” – pronoun followed by verb) the “could-of-should-of-would-of” construct (and any tense thereof, e.g. “can of” – beans perhaps?) is meaningless and has no place being accepted into common use as being grammatically correct.

    I believe that this has come about through its regular (mis-)use in oral conversation by those who have never read or written the correct phrase in early life. Now, they are all writing it in forums on the internet and it is spreading like wildfire!

    I have heard British comedian (is comedienne no longer PC?) Jo Brand and other celebrity guest panellists on entertainment quiz shows, such as BBC’s QI, using the “could-of-should-of-would-of” phrases so it’s no wonder people think it is fine to say it that way.

    In summary, “could-of-should-of-would-of” is not grammatically incorrect, it just don’t make no sense, init! :)

    I hope that translates for our rest-of-world viewers.


    Angry of Aylesbury

    2011 Jan 25 at 06:55

  66. Here is another variation that I have just come across …

    “I couldn’t of put it better myself”

    … Well clearly you could but the question is, what did you intend to say? Was it “I couldn’t’ve put it better myself”? So, if we are going to abbreviate, do we double abbreviate in negative cases?


    Angry of Aylesbury

    2011 Feb 16 at 12:44

  67. This is ridiculous. “Via common usage have become correct”? Then I assume all of “Ebonics” is correct too? U iz trippin ballz, na’mean?

    It’s incorrect until Oxford Dictionary says it is. Period!

    Using “should of” makes you look like you were home schooled by your uncle Ricky Bobby at his barn instead of going to proper school.

    Speak English Or Else

    2011 Mar 3 at 18:45

    • Yes, what you called Ebonics is correct. The state of English as you speak is one that is vastly more complex AND simple than English spoken at other times. The simplification of the conjugations of the verb “to be” which is seen in some dialects of English is merely the next logical step in a process of evolution which some people wish to see frozen now (why now of all times?!). That you (one) don’t (doesn’t) understand the idiosyncrasies of a dialect is no reason to lambast it as incorrect. There are complex concepts at play with so-called “vernacular English”, I implore you not to denigrate them as inferior or wrong.


      2011 Apr 11 at 11:55

  68. I’m an English Honor’s student and sort of a grammar Nazi. I have read all the comments above and I can agree with the people who think that due to constant usage of S.M.S language and people not wanting to type in the few extra letters when they are talking to someone on the internet or through text messaging, that words like “there” and “their” are being used to denote “they’re”.

    I believe that we can’t really stop it, because it’s spread already, and anyone trying to correct someone for using these words in the wrong way is ridiculed or ignored. All we can do is teach people, who haven’t yet come to embrace the faulty language.

    Silvester Day

    2011 Mar 18 at 08:30

  69. This is completely unacceptable in AE, but will probably become the default through sheer numbers. I have seen it justified on the basis of a relationship (that I don’t see) with “sort of”… but in that case “sort” is a noun, while would/could/should are “helping verbs”… something I’m not sure they even teach anymore, because I’ve brought this up a couple of times around people younger than me and they don’t know what I am talking about. (They also don’t know the differences between there/their/they’re, your/you’re, whose/who’s, its/it’s, and affect/effect.)

    But languages change, and I don’t think any amount of pedantry is going to stop this. The T9 text input system on many phones has already changed language as used by young people who have grown up with phones and game controllers. T9 is predictive, it looks at the numbers you press and decides what you most likely wanted to type… so while on a normal ‘multipress’ phone you would press 4-4-3-3-5-5-5-5-5-5-6-6-6 to write “hello”, with T9 you just press 4-3-5-5-6 and the system figures out what words that could possibly be and ranks them according to frequency of usage (and a good phone will learn you’re specific usage patterns).

    So how is that changing language? My friend is a school teacher, and he has seen this: kids texting the word “cool” (which might be one of the top ten words kids type) using T9 press 2-6-6-5, and the system figures out what words that could be… there are only so many possibilities: book, cook, and cool are the words my phone finds, and “book” is the suggested word. So if you want “cool”, you need to move over to the arrow buttons and arrow down the list to find “cool”. But that is an unacceptable amount of effort to the high-bandwidth quick-shot texters kids have become. So they just hit space, the phone writes “book”, and everyone knows that if they see that, it really means “cool”.

    That’s understandable to a point, but here is the weird bit: once this had become something everyone knew about, kids started speaking the word “book” when they meant “cool” – this little quirk of technology has changed the vocabulary of its users, to the point that they are now using a word that has no semantic relation to the new meaning, based on some engineering decision about how text should be entered into a phone that only has a numeric keypad.

    In a way, that is rather terrifying. But in another way, I think it is pretty book.

    Benny Pendentes

    2011 May 1 at 05:24

  70. I believe it’s derived from “could have,” which gets abbreviated as “could’ve.” The less educated lot interpret this to be “could of.”

    Jon Hartman

    2011 May 4 at 07:35

  71. Correct is correct, and no number of morons using words incorrectly can make this incorrect usage somehow become correct. Linguists who proffer this theory should be shot. They are utterly useless to their field. People need to be properly educated if they want to be respected members of society, and if someone wants people to respect his or her opinions, that person had better learn to use words correctly. The moment you write “should of, would of, or could of,” I know you are an illiterate lowlife and don’t deserve a hearing for anything you have to say.


    2011 May 6 at 21:04

  72. fucking facebook freaks lingo, fuck them all dude, lifeless scums, big bullshit and lot of crap “could of” cock lickers facebook moron addicts, it is “could have” of course poor little facebook posing fuckers, long live the 90s, fuck you facebook culture


    2011 May 10 at 06:38

  73. Well there are some language elements that we could do without altogether! I’m sure that you could have made your point with far less ‘colourful’ language, poutsesmple.

    The problem these days is that the English language is read and written far less than it is spoken so it is easy for such mis-interpretations of pronunciation to be made.

    I don’t think that the problem can be blamed entirely on Facebook culture although it could be said that the people most likely to make the ‘ve/of error in the first place are those most likely to spread it on-line.

    Angry of Aylesbury

    2011 May 13 at 00:36

  74. “Should of” is not correct, anywhere in the world. It is not correct in English speaking countries or non-English speaking countries.

    I can refer to my own school years and especially to when I was 9 years old. My teacher was trying to explain what he said was “Future plu-perfect” by saying thus:

    “If I say I should have gone to the gate, or I should’ve gone to the gate, I know it is correct simply because I can split the sentence up and know that it is all correct. For example, I can split that sentence and know that I can say I should go to the gate or I have gone to the gate and both are correct”.

    I remember that each time I hear “should of” because I can just hear that same teacher saying that “should of” is incorrect because you can say “I should go to the gate” but you cant say “I of gone to the gate”.

    “Should of” is just another idiocy from bogans who not only dont know enough, they dont have the brains to care.


    2011 May 19 at 15:51

  75. I have not read every post here but I agree with it being incorrect. English is not my first language and it would be insane having to teach this to anyone else attached with the excuse that “it has become common enough” that now it’s okay, but still, you can’t apply a rule to it.
    To me it’s unacceptable.
    This happens in other languages as well like Portuguese, like someone here mentioned, the ignorant outnumber the ones that actually care for what’s coming out of their mouths.
    I found myself arguing with several people in the same subject. There is even a book out (in Portuguese) that tries to underline the fact that it’s okay to adapt to this kind of grotesque urban “innovation”.
    Vomit inducing indeed.


    2011 May 25 at 04:33

  76. I’m one of the guilty .should ofs’ (how about should ‘ofs’ plural ofs, nice). In my defence, I learnt it through speech, I went to a grammar school but did we ever learn such things? Nope! Infact I learnt my error through correction from a Czech foreigner would you believe? The teaching of grammar at school is a shambles these days, they teach better grammar on TEFL courses!!


    2011 Jun 1 at 01:46

  77. You, sir, are full *of* shit.

    Rohan Dhruva

    2011 Jun 19 at 17:30

  78. Just to complicate matters the Irish word ‘folamh’ (pronounced roughly “full of”) means ’empty’ in English.

    Similarly the late, great Peter Ustanov was once at Dublin airport and, upon seeing the words ‘Fír’ and ‘Mna’ on the doors of the toilets, reasoned that, as F was for feminine and M was for masculine, and Mna seemed like some quaint corruption of the spelling of Men …

    … well you can hear the screams yourselves!

    Angry of Aylesbury

    2011 Jul 9 at 06:58

  79. It’s not an error, it’s a horror. I’d think that native English speakers would understand the difference between ‘of’ and ‘have’. And I’m not one.


    2011 Aug 12 at 07:58

  80. I say it stands as incorrect and I believe people are starting to say that its correct just so they dont have to be corrected, or go back and correct their ways of writing, and thinking. It’s an ignorant, lazy, and uneducated attitude that diminishes a lot of what our ancestors worked towards for their decendants’ futures. This whole world seems to be heading towards a situation that is portrayed in the movie, “Idiocracy”, and i wouldn’t be surprised if it did.


    2011 Aug 13 at 16:05

  81. I am always sympathetic to arguments about changes in the usage of language, but the type of construction under discussion here makes me despair for the future of the human race. That “would of” is idiotic should be obvious to any speaker of English. Blaming the education system is fine for matters such as literacy or numeracy -not stupidity.

    John S

    2011 Oct 21 at 05:28

  82. I am not going to get all technical as to the reason in which someone should follow up should, could or would. What I will say is that at an early age in school we are taught that we should write should have, could have or would have. In a shortened version we should write should’ve, could’ve or would’ve.

    I am far from some grammatical perfectionist and I am sure just in the writing of this I have made mistakes but that does not mean something as simple as putting have in some way at the end of should, could or would should be left out. It is just a fundamental lesson we are taught at an early age and it should stick.

    Gary Devon Linger

    2011 Oct 27 at 17:27

  83. People misusing language isn’t an “evolution” of the language; it’s people using it incorrectly. Why should we make concessions and call it a natural progression of language just because people are wrong?


    2012 Jan 4 at 19:18

  84. Wonderful website. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to several buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks on your sweat!


    2012 Jan 19 at 21:27

  85. Wooden it be nice two go back too a thyme (and their must of bin won) in witch we wear all carefull about our speach and how we rite it (won of the tree R’s) but still have TV and the innernet!


    2012 Jan 21 at 07:00

  86. The crux of the matter is that what is spoken and what is written are different. Regardless of how someone speaks it, and there is an argument that, because ‘of’ sounds somewhat similar to ‘have’ and especially to the contracted “‘ve”, it might be acceptable in pronunciation following ‘would’ etc., when they come to write it down “should of” is incorrect. I think the problem is that those who say “of” have never had to write anything down, or never been corrected when they got it wrong. If someone writes “should of” when they meant “should have” (or its valid contraction “should’ve”) then they have not written correct English. When I hear a speaker say ‘should of’ then I don’t routinely try to correct them any more – I just make allowances for the sad fact that they were deprived of a proper education.

    Ken Waters

    2012 Feb 6 at 12:09

  87. I get that ‘could of’ makes it sound somewhat British. I have nothing against their English or their tone, but I’ve come to realise that this whole ‘would of/could of’ thing comes from the way they pronounce ‘would’ve’ and ‘could’ve’. The downward intonation for the ‘ve’ at the back makes it sound like they’re saying ‘could of’, and hence seep into the way people think it is written. Otherwise, I am completely *against* accepting ‘could of’ as correct.

    Samuel Sergio C.

    2012 Mar 3 at 11:10

  88. On an episode of the TV programme QI, I heard the British comedienne Jo Brand say one of the “of”s, I believe it was “must of”. She said it very clearly and deliberately as though that was how she thought it was spelled. Jo is from Wandsworth, London and, although she was educated in Tunbridge Wells, Kent where they speak very well indeed, she retains her London accent. Her pronunciation of “must of” in place of the contraction “must’ve” had nothing to do with her accent and Londoners generally pronounce “must’ve” as “must-uv” rather than “must-ov”.

    This is not a British English / US English / International English or accent issue, it is a generic mistake which is proliferating at an appalling rate. It is not even a mispronunciation but a misunderstanding of the roots of words and phrases.


    2012 Apr 12 at 06:33

  89. It is unquestionably ‘should have’. If those who believe this is correct repeat it, in full, maybe the correct version. I also prefer to have UK English, not the English I am given (and the consequent spelling) when I select ‘country = UK’ on my computer.

    Now, how about this. Given the French say ‘n’est-ce-pas?’ to affirm any statement, will ‘innit?’ become the norm here?

    Simon Hooker

    2012 Apr 17 at 13:42

  90. I totally agree that it’s completely incorrect.

    I also don’t believe that something which is wrong should be considered right because it becomes commonplace. Take the example of rape and murder in South Africa: it’s very common, but should it be regarded as right just because of that fact? Certainly not!


    2012 Sep 16 at 07:33

  91. I came across this courtesy of Google. As someone who has had to grapple with Dyslexia I find a lot of the responses predictable and boring. When I learned to read, dyslexia hadn’t been invented, so in a way I caught if from my children, all of whom were duly diagnosed while they were young. (For the pedants, I know genetics doesn’t work that way, I have a medical degree.) All my life I have had to put up with people telling me that I have got spellings wrong. How do you know I have it wrong? I ask. They duly tell me what the word is. So, I say, 100% of the meaning was transmitted. I mention this to simply point out that spelling, and grammar are artificial constructs, invented by humans, and therefore able to be changed by humans. The issue is communication. If good grammar adds clarity, then it justifies itself. Could of and its bedfellows are perfectly clear, simply because the ‘of’, as a number of you responders have pointed out, is meaningless, it could be viewed as simply and alternative way of spelling ‘ve. It probably tells the reader something about the education prowess of the speaker, so in dialogue would be perfectly acceptable, assuming it was not a speech by the lord chief justice.
    Uniform spelling and grammar as we know it are r elatively modern inventions, look at a few tombstones and you’ll see waht I mean.
    If you know enough to say that someone has got it wrong when they say should of, in other words if you are sure they should have said should’ve, then you should know enough to know that they have conveyed to you all the meaning that they intended. In fact theybhave conveyed more than that, they have told you something about their education as well. If you correct them, then you are removing meaning, reducing communication. Is thatnthe purpose of grammar?

    Rod Griffiths

    2012 Nov 11 at 08:59

    • The constructs “could of”, “should of”, “would of”, “must of” et al are always incorrect and indeed I can’t think of a single circumstance in which those pairs of words belong next to each other. It shouldn’t even be classed as a grammatical error, it’s just meaningless use of unrelated words. Up with this I shall not put!

      When I read or hear those words together it interrupts the flow of the sentence and I have to do the work of interpreting what was intended when the author should have put the effort in to clearly convey their meaning.

      What if I incorrectly interpret “he should of” as “he should have” when “he shoved off” was what was intended? If I hear someone with a strong Liverpool or Glasgow accent saying “should’ve” do I interpret that as “shed off” automatically because that is how it sounds?

      I read a lot of on-line forums where badly written or badly read posts result in pages of angry discussion based on misinterpretation. Other contributors then have to intervene to explain what they believe was intended by the original poster and how it was so easily misconstrued. People often don’t read what they’ve written and ‘hear’ what it will sound like to those reading it.

      As has already been pointed out by those for whom English (AE or BE) is not their first language, they are learning these incorrect constructs from native English speakers and writers who are misusing the language.

      Is the use of those constructs a symptom of Dyslexia? I have little in-depth knowledge of the condition but would not expect that it causes a word or phrase to be substituted for another simply because they can sound similar if spoken or heard incorrectly.

      I don’t feel there is any value added by me knowing how poor someone’s education is and hope hope that you don’t seriously think so either.


      2013 Feb 12 at 10:45

  92. Snobs. English is littered with “exceptions” to it’s supposed rules. How many are suggesting the reversal of past miss-uses of the English language legitimised? How much of you daily speech might offend a linguist of prior centuries?


    2012 Dec 8 at 09:32

    • It’s not snobbery and we’re not discussing an exception to a rule like “I before E except after C or when pronounced A as in neighbour and weigh” which does have exceptions but mostly words adopted into English from other languages in recent times.

      We’re talking about words that don’t belong together and have no meaning in the English language when used that way but which are incorrectly used in place of a contraction which sounds somewhat similar when spoken in certain accents leading to people writing it that way too.

      If you were learning a foreign language you wouldn’t want to get it wrong and look foolish so why do that with your native language?

      It’s often best to simplify your vocabulary, especially when writing, by avoiding contractions or other words and constructs of which you are not certain. Very often people are unsure where the apostrophe goes in some contractions so it may be best not to use them. However the flow of speech can be diminished by using full phrases and a sentence may sound extremely formal or clumsy in that case.

      Name some other ‘mistakes’ that have crept into English but which are now considered acceptable?

      As an aside, personally I feel that there are too many compound words these days and it’s getting worse with speech introduced from technology (log in, log-in, login and their on and off variants; on line, on-line, online, web site, web-site, website etc.). Sure, whether I say or write these and other phrases as two words, a hyphenated word or a compound word, you’ll still most likely understand the intended meaning but do we need so many variants and are they just misspellings? Hyphenation has its uses and very often changes the emphasis on a word or words but this is lost when two words are simply stuck together.

      France has rules to prevent the contamination of its language with words from other languages and techno-speak (not a word!) and I believe that we should be doing more to keep English simple, clear and not so ‘ʞool’.

      (I just came across a question on the internet “Were can i get a code to make a backwards K?” – “Were” indeed? Is that bad grammar, bad spelling or poor knowledge of the language?)

      I note that the built-in spell checker of the browser I’m using to compose this post doesn’t think that the contraction “should’ve” is valid although it accepts the others.


      2013 Feb 12 at 11:54

    • Glenn, who is this “Miss Uses” of whom you speak? :)


      2013 Feb 12 at 11:57

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    2013 May 11 at 21:08

  94. I reject a CV from a native speaker immediatly if it contains “would/could/might of”.
    it shows poor education, poor attention to basic details and a careless attitude.

    “of” and “have” are different words even if they sound similar in spoken language. And if a native speaker is uncapable of distinguishing between these two, it shows that this person has never been interested to develop acceptable skills in his/her own language.

    It’s different when done by a non-native speaker even though non-native speakers often know even better as they have uaually done their fair bit of grammar studying.


    2013 Jun 9 at 08:50

    • Immediately and incapable.


      2013 Jul 5 at 07:55

    • *interested in developing acceptable skills…


      2013 Aug 16 at 13:17

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    2013 Aug 16 at 12:10

  97. I use “would of”, “could of” and “should of” all the time – both in spoken and written form. In fact, I didn’t even know it was wrong until someone at work pointed it out to me a few days ago. For the record, I’m a fairly educated 35 year old native English speaker with a good job and I do quite a bit of reading and writing. I’m a reasonably good speller, but I don’t know the first thing about grammar (all those terms like “preposition”, “adverb”, “adjective” etc. – I have no idea what they are). I’ve never been formally taught any grammar at school – I just picked it up on the way. Hence I never understood what that expression should consist of; “would of been”, “should of done” etc. makes perfect sense to me. Another thing I tend to do is say “You shouldn’t of have” when I mean “You shouldn’t have”. For example, when someone does something nice for me, I’ll say: “Oh, you shouldn’t of have!” I never realised where the “have” part came from, but I always thought the “of” part had to be there to connect these words. Leaving it out would seem to me like something is missing. To me, “you shouldn’t of have” makes just as much sense as “you shouldn’t of done that”.

    Obviously, these mistakes are very common and it’s not surprising that I wasn’t told about it earlier; many people use these words the same way that I do, and many of those who “know better” are not very nitpicking about it; however, there are always “grammar nazis” who enjoy to correct other people’s language. In everyday speech, “could of” and “could have” sound exactly the same, so why should it be so important how it’s written? I for one would be delighted if “could of/should of” made it into dictionaries and became recognised as correct. Meanwhile I’ll try to remember to use them correctly, but I can’t promise anything :)


    2013 Aug 16 at 16:38

    • Rachel,

      The reason it is so important, is because “of” is not a verb (something you can do). “Of” & “have” are not pronounced the same at all. Prior to visiting this page & before being told that you said or spelled something incorrectly, were you already aware of “I’ve” being the contracted version of “I have”? Do you pronounce “I’ve” & “I have” the same? Did you use “I of” instead of “I have”?

      “Of” is pronounced the same as “ove” in “love”. “Have” is pronounced “hav” (such as “HALF” with a “V” replacing the “LF”). “I’ve” is pronounced the same as “ive” in the number “five” & “could’ve” is pronounced “kʊdəv”. You may have incorrectly learned “You shouldn’t of have” from hearing the phrase “You shouldn’t’ve HAD to do that”. With “had” being the past tense form of “have”, you may have made what you thought was a logical leap to reaching “You shouldn’t of have”.

      Try saying “you’ve” as in “You’ve been very nice to me.” Now change it to “You OF been very nice to me.”. Then try saying “I OF to agree.” instead of “I HAVE to agree.”. If this is noticeably wrong to you & sounds distinctly wrong, this is how other people feel when they read your writing/typing/texts including the usage “could of”. In order to read “could of” correctly (in terms of pronouncing the 2 words correctly but separately), you would “OF” to pause between the 2 words. “I…… OF”, “You….. OF”, “They….. OF”. Now try pausing between “could….. OF”, “would….. OF”, “should….. OF” & finally “shouldn’t….. OF….. HAVE” & you might hear why this is always incorrect.

      If it ever becomes acceptable, it would only benefit people who didn’t pay attention at all in school, in what SURELY was the most important class (English). The ability to communicate accurately & articulately is what determines if you are understood correctly with any degree of depth. If you found nothing wrong in how you….. OF been speaking & writing for this long, it is only because you only recently learned of your mistake. The point is what you do once you have the knowledge to know the difference.

      I had a friend from NY who thought “ARE” & “OR” were pronounced the same, so he ALWAYS wrote “red ARE blue”, “black ARE white”, “tacos ARE hotdogs” & so on. Surely, he would love for this to become acceptable too, then he could continue to be ignorant, yet also correct.

      It is more forgivable when someone uses the wrong “there, their or they’re” in text, as we do have a habit of typing some words more than others & we do often type exactly what we hear ourselves think (or say out loud). But because “OF”, “HAVE” & “‘VE” are all pronounced differently, it tells the reader that the writer pronounces these words the same, and when we pronounce the words correctly, it sounds to us like, “You OF to do what we all OF to do, because they will OF a difficult time understanding what we should not OF writing.”. You can make life easier for yourself & always say or write “HAVE”; as in “should have”.

      It gets more confusing in British English as many Brits drop the “H” in the word “HAVE”!


      2013 Aug 16 at 23:04

      • *written


        2013 Aug 16 at 23:08

      • Actually, I’m from Australia and in my accent “could’ve” and “could of” sound exactly the same. Of course, I don’t use “of” instead of “have” every time. I won’t say “I of to do that” instead of “I have to do that”. I only use it in that context (would of, could of, should of, must of…). Yes, I was aware of “I’ve” being the contracted version of “I have”, and I don’t pronounce them the same. However, I had no idea that “could’ve” actually stands for “could have”; I pronounced it as “could of” and I spelt it that way too. Not having much grammar knowledge, I didn’t think about “of” not being a verb; when I write “I should of done that”, I assume “done” is a verb and “of” is just there because I hear it in the sentence. Besides, I’ve seen it written that way too many times, as I’m not the only one who uses it that way. I understand it may look bad and make people think of me as an uneducated person, but as they say, old habits die hard. I can’t change it over night. I’m definitely more aware of it now and I try to think about it when I write, but of course it still happens, I just do it habitually. Also, there are instances where I’m not even sure whether to use “of” or “have” now. As for the expression “You shouldn’t of have”, I think I used it because I heard the “have” part clearly, but I still thought I had to put “of” in.


        2013 Aug 17 at 07:30

      • Well, G’day to you! The Aussie accent definitely makes it more understandable how you would have misunderstood the word when lead by “could, should & would”, or as you correctly pointed out, also “must”. An easy way to remember the spelling is to simply ask yourself if the sentence makes ANY sense without “could, should, would or must”. For instance, “I would of thought…” where it may become clear to you that the word should be “have”, as “I… have thought” still makes some kind of sense.

        “Have” is more of a helping verb. “I have gone through so much”, “They have made a cake just for you” where the subject is “I have” or “They have”.

        “Of” being a preposition, it will mostly come before a noun & not a verb. IE: “Made of wood”

        1. (used to indicate distance or direction from, separation, deprivation, etc.): within a mile of the church; south of Omaha; to be robbed of one’s money.
        2. (used to indicate derivation, origin, or source): a man of good family; the plays of Shakespeare; a piece of cake.
        3. (used to indicate cause, motive, occasion, or reason): to die of hunger.
        4. (used to indicate material, component parts, substance, or contents): a dress of silk; an apartment of three rooms; a book of poems; a package of cheese.
        5. (used to indicate apposition or identity): Is that idiot of a salesman calling again?

        “Have” being a verb (with the exception of “the haves”), it may be followed by a verb or a noun.

        1. to possess; own; hold for use; contain: He has property. The work has an index.
        2. to hold, possess, or accept in some relation, as of kindred or relative position: He wanted to marry her, but she wouldn’t have him.
        3. to get, receive, or take: to have a part in a play; to have news.
        4. to experience, undergo, or endure, as joy or pain: Have a good time. He had a heart attack last year.
        5. to hold in mind, sight, etc.: to have doubts.

        This will really mess with your mind: “You shouldn’t’ve had to have at it as if you haven’t had more time to write about what the haves & have-nots have to do to survive.”


        2013 Aug 17 at 08:14

      • Hehe, thank you :) In general, I know the difference between “of” and “have” and I never mixed them up, unless in that particular context. However, after that mistake was pointed out to me, I became too aware of it, so sometimes I get confused and am not sure which one to use… LOL. Oh, that last sentence would be a nightmare :)) Now that I look at it, I think I would of gotten all of it right, except for “shouldn’t’ve had” (“shouldn’t of had”). By the way, are we allowed to write “shouldn’t’ve”? I’ve never seen a double contraction before.


        2013 Aug 17 at 10:31

      • To be honest, I used it to make it a LITTLE easier to read. >:D They are common in America (where I am), but non-standard. Even triple contractions such as: ‘twouldn’t’ve or “it would not have” exist, but you’d have a hard time finding them in anything written properly from today. I find most double contractions using “have” precede “had”. I also usually pronounce “have to” as “haf to” in order to distinct the imperative (“I have to” as in “I must”) from possessive (“I have”).

        My English used to be pretty bad, as I’m from Louisiana & most of my friends spoke “ghetto”. It wasn’t until I started speaking with someone living in Iran, who was learning English, that I really started paying attention to how I say & spell things. That was over 8 years ago & as a result, I find myself proof-reading nearly everything online (which is quite unfortunate). It’s actually carried over to real life, where I’ll find grammatical errors on restaurant menus & signs. It’s frustrating when I just want the info without wanting to mentally check everything.

        BTW, the correction you first posted on the 16th is exactly 1 of my biggest mistakes. I type something, then decide on a better way to phrase it without making any other necessary changes to the sentence structure to allow for the change. But we are all human & are prone to make mistakes. If not, we’d never have these wonderful things to discuss! ;)


        2013 Aug 17 at 11:04

      • Agreed :)


        2013 Aug 17 at 11:11

      • Slightly off topic but as you have already mentioned the misuse of “are” I thought I would point out an alternative which I had not come across for a long time but which turned up in an e-mail and a Tweet from two separate customer service staff in different companies in the past few weeks. The latest was “Sorry for the delayed response are best value fares are online.” where “are” is used twice, once correctly and once in place of “our”. This most likely comes from hearing “our” pronounced with certain Irish, UK, New England or Newfoundland accents.


        2014 Feb 21 at 07:40

  98. *correction

    I meant to say “who enjoy correcting other people’s language”. I was going to write “who love to correct other people’s language” and then decided to change it to “enjoy” and forgot to edit the rest of it. So, sorry about that :)


    2013 Aug 16 at 16:54

  99. How about this: “He had to of done something wrong in order to of been caught.” I was typing this sentence and caught myself thinking about it :) Do I use “have” here as well?


    2013 Aug 18 at 12:19

  100. Another one that’s been bugging me:
    “Had I of been told about this in the first place…”

    See, now I keep catching these little thingies all over the place… LOL.


    2013 Aug 18 at 12:29

    • In your first example: “He had to of done something wrong in order to of been caught.”, because “done” is a verb, you need to use “have” as a helping verb; “have done”. There is no sentence I can think of where “of” (a preposition) would come before “done” (a verb). Try a more clear verb such as, “He had to of bought…” & it may be more clear that “of” is incorrect. Also think of the second part; “…to have been caught”. There is only 1 way to say “I have been caught” or the contracted “I’ve been caught”. This makes it pretty clear you wouldn’t say “I OF been caught”.

      With an American accent, the “to of” you referred to is actually pronounced “too-uhv” but with a very short “uh” (spoken very quickly) because it is a contraction of “had to have” written as “had to’ve”, whereas the “to of” would be read as “too… uhv” with a distinct pause to wholly pronounce the “OF”, in such an example as “2 of a kind”.

      In the second example, there should only be a single use of “have”, which is the past tense “had” that the sentence begins with. The sentence should be “Had I been told…” without an additional “have”, and surely without “of”. When using “have” twice so closely together, (even in a different tense), the actual type of “have” changes; “I have had too much to drink.” meaning “I must have…” or “I surely…” or “I clearly…” followed by a possessive verb “had too much to drink” or “have too much”.

      Just remember that “of” nearly always comes before a noun; “made of wood”. If the word you’re thinking about connecting it to is definitely not a person, place or thing (or state of being), the word should be “have”.

      Do let me know if you can think of any other sentence where you have any doubt. I’d be glad to help out! :D


      2013 Aug 18 at 13:33

      • Thanks, that was very helpful. All of a sudden I encounter the weirdest possible examples of these sentences… LOL. I actually received an e-mail from a friend that said “It would of been nice if we of been asked…” I knew immediately that was wrong, I would have never used “if we of been asked”, not even before I was aware of my misuse of “would of/would have”.


        2013 Aug 18 at 13:52

      • You should send this page to your friend! That sentence should be, “It would’ve been nice if we would’ve been asked…”. Very glad to help though! Let me know if you can think of any sentences where “of” comes before a verb. I’m hurting my head to try to find a single example. I don’t know all the rules of English, but I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a single case where “of” comes before a verb. mentions that “of”; is “used as a function word to indicate the application of a verb or of an adjective ”

        AHA! Well, that just made me think of at LEAST 1 type of case where “of” could precede a verb, “She was very fond of kicking her new ball.”, though I’m pretty sure there’s a good explanation for why this is an exception.

        I think the best way to figure out which way to write something is to say the the sentence with a deliberate pause; “should… of”. If it sounds like you should say “have” & the sentence still makes sense, then you should quickly realize that “of” would be wrong there. It may make your work a bit slower at first, but your mind will quickly adopt the corrections. You may not even be able to explain how you know it’s right or wrong, but that when you give it the “pause test” you can instantly tell.

        English is pretty funny. “Noun” is a noun, “adjective” is an adjective OR a noun, but “verb” is a NOUN! At least until the kids start “verbing it up”!


        2013 Aug 18 at 14:29

      • I think “She was very fond of kicking her new ball” is a completely different case, because it’s basically like saying “She was very fond of that”, so “kicking her new ball” in this case acts as a noun… right?


        2013 Aug 18 at 15:06

      • I believe that is exactly correct, but I have no idea what the literary explanation is. I hated English class as a kid. I would have to agree with your assessment. Perhaps there is something that actually states that a standard verb can never follow “of”, but it’s beyond me.


        2013 Aug 18 at 15:10

      • I thought of one example where it does, but it’s not really “standard English”.

        “I’m kind of trying to understand that.”

        There you have it, “of” followed by a verb :)


        2013 Aug 18 at 15:29

      • Thank you! That is a really good example, but “kind of” is an adverb (I had to look it up!). I was also thinking “sort of”, but when I thought about “somewhat trying”, I realized it was not using “of” as a preposition. I did then think of another example, but not sure if I can figure out how it conforms to the English rules; “What kind of typing do you do?”


        2013 Aug 18 at 15:39

      • Yes, I think it can always be done with “kind of”, “sort of”, “type of” etc.


        2013 Aug 18 at 15:46

      • Some excellent examples of “of” before a verb and some excellent explanations as to why they’re okay. However, in “She was very fond of kicking her new ball”, as “kicking her new ball” can be replaced by the pronouns “it”, “this” or “that” it is the object of the sentence but it has not miraculously been transubstantiated / transmuted into a noun! In fact, in this case, the object of the sentence is composed of a verb “kicking”, a pronoun “her”, an adjective “new” and a noun “ball”. [I’ve said that rather authoritatively but I am open to correction.]

        Just to confuse things further, verbs can sometimes be used as nouns such as in “She was very fond of giving her ball a real good kicking”. However, I personally feel that such constructs are a form of slang.


        2014 Feb 21 at 17:38

      • @RealEveryDay, in your sentence “What kind of typing do you do?”, “typing” is actually a noun, not a verb.


        2015 Oct 15 at 01:10

  101. Should have, would have, could have. That’s it! I can’t accept that we have to accept the incorrect. It’s as if schools have given up on teaching these basic things. It’s not rocket science.


    2013 Sep 24 at 01:24

  102. When people type “could of”, “should of”, etc., it makes me think they appear to be uneducated, ignorant hicks. There’s no such thing as “could of” or “should of.”. You can’t OF anything. You can HAVE anything. This is one of the few grammar peeves I have. Others include:

    “There” when they mean “their” or “they’re”, as well as “their” when it is “they’re” (“They’re with their dogs.”), “your” when they mean “you’re” (as in “you’re on the team”), “to” when they mean “too” (as in “too hard”, “love you too”), “loose” when they mean “lose”, “breath” when they mean “breathe”, “here” when it is “hear” (“hear the music” – note that “hear” ends in “ear”!) and when “a lot” is spelled as one word when it is two separate words. Unless YOU’RE academically challenged or dyslexic, and as long as YOUR native language is English, you should know better by the time YOU’RE able to use a computer. This is stuff you should HAVE learned in grade school, for Pete’s sake.

    Stephanie King

    2013 Nov 8 at 15:22

    • Exactly. I can’t for the life of me understand why so many adult native English speakers don’t get those basic things. When you have a random look at Facebook or online forums, it seems like almost everyone makes these mistakes. I swear, even my 8-year-old cousin in America already knows all these rules, even though she is not a native English speaker. How can it be so hard for so many native speakers?


      2015 Oct 15 at 01:16

  103. I can’t help but wonder how would a should of/could of person ask a question like, ‘Could she have overheard what we were saying?’
    ‘Could she of overheard what we were saying?’

    I’d have thought (of thought?) that alone would be reason enough for these ungrammatical abominations to never be regarded as ‘correct’ – they’re so incorrect they actually ‘break’ the language


    2014 Feb 12 at 10:50

    • Believe it or not, I see many native English speakers use exactly that kind of constructions. One recent example: “Could you of jumped any higher?”


      2015 Oct 15 at 01:19

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    2014 Mar 6 at 09:48

  105. im silly
    my study is what is
    what was
    what will be
    all that was is and that is is part of what will be need i go on i can

    andrew hibberd

    2014 May 20 at 01:29

  106. Thanx for this clarification… It was driving me (grammatically) crazy to see should of when i knew it was should have or should’ve.. Now that I realize to that grammatically acceptable I’ll have less sleepless nights!!!😜

    Janis Condit

    2014 Aug 27 at 10:58

  107. I personally don’t think the use of ‘of’ instead of ‘have’ in writing in the manner described here (should of, would of, could of etc.) is ever going to become standard in English. The thing is these forms have been around since times immemorial, I once read advice against using them in a usage guide published in the 1950s. These forms will continue to be used by illiterate native speakers but they’ll be frowned upon more and more as English becomes more globalised and the number of people that learn English as a second language eventually surpasses the number of ‘illiterate’ native speakers. I mean if you learn English as a second language it would never even occur to you to write ‘should of’ for ‘should have’ because it’s just plain retarded – sure have can sound somewhat like of if you drop the h but homophones, though they might be, they’re still two distinct words. People that say it’s ok to write ‘should of/could of’ etc. might as well be claiming that it’s ok to write stuff like – ‘I think isle be aloud to sit in the I’ll’ – I mean why not, let the carnival bells ring, let the serpent sing, let everything.


    2015 Nov 10 at 05:03

  108. PLEASE IF YOUR GOING ON ABOUT AE AND BE WRITE WHAT THE HELL IT MEANS!!!! had a good read until I read that, not knowing what it is because the writer wants to act so smart and it looks stupid. Atleast write what the hell it means if your going to abbreviate shit


    2016 Apr 12 at 22:45

    • Well, of course someone who doesn’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your” would have no idea what AE and BE mean.


      2016 Apr 17 at 11:42

  109. “Great Blogpost! You post interesting articles here. Your blog deserves_ much more visitors.”

    Timothy Thrash

    2017 Feb 25 at 11:17

  110. English for me is: could have, would have. Could of etc is not good English.


    2017 Jul 22 at 22:42

  111. ‘Mabye’? What word is this?

    And all of you commenters who type the unnecessary word ‘like’ ought to be ashamed of yourselves. (Yes, nosugrefneb, I am talking to you.)


    2017 Sep 12 at 13:06

  112. Youve got to be pulling my leg- I really want to see a link to where someone claims that the ridiculous use of “would of”, etc. is correct. I’m willing to bet it came from something along the lines of a blog, which is nothing but some guy’s online journal and has nothing to do with anything that matters, especially in terms of how the English language is constructed and used to communicate with non-idiots. Ten bucks says there is a grammatical or spelling error in the first sentence of this piece of “writing”. Even if every dummy on earth says that two words mean something other than what they actually do mean that doesn’t make the combination of words take on a new meaning. All it means is a group of imbeciles agree on something that is silly, ignorant and nonsensical. This means nothing as far as the English language is concerned. Not one thing.

    I’ve got one! How about people who would say some thing like this: “I’ll be done with grocery shopping soon, THAN I’ll go straight to the bank.”

    I mean, come on! What’s happening with these people?

    Commander Cool

    2017 Dec 1 at 07:25

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