Grammar Chaos: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Posted on Mar 08, 2017

No matter what anyone tells you and no matter how popular it becomes, the phrases “could of”, “would of”, and “should of” are never grammatically correct. The long versions of the contractions “could’ve”, “would’ve”, and “should’ve” are “could have”, “would have”, and “should have”, respectively.

“Could, Should, Would” (Also Known As The Druthers) by

There are many who think that “could’ve” = “could of.” Why? Mainly because of the pronunciation.

Before we go further, here’s a little lecture on phonetics. In each word, one syllable is always stressed. The “schwa” is the unstressed vowel in a word. Take for example the word “describe.” If you spell the word phonetically, it becomes /duh-SCRIBE/.

Applying that to the issue, when spelled phonetically, “could’ve” becomes /KUD-uhv/ as opposed to the expanded “could have” /KUD HAV/ in which both syllables are stressed because they are two separate words. The confusion with the use of “have” and “of” lies in its use as auxiliary vowels.

This mistake was first recorded way back in 1837. It’s currently making a comeback on social media, specifically Twitter. Above all, this reflects a gap in proper education of grammar. Moreover, this error is common among native users of English, namely, in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Regardless of its age and its current popularity, “could of,” “would of,” and “should of” will never be acceptable in the English language simply because it makes no sense. “Have” is a verb, while “of” is a preposition.

So the next time you see someone use “could of,” “would of,” and “should of,” calmly explain what the /uhv/ actually means.


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