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Chapter 2 - “Could of”

This article is about Chapter 2 - “Could of” — enjoy your reading!

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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“We could of used the right helping verb.”

We understand where this mistake came from. It came from speech. The word “have” when joined with “could” to form “could have” sounds a lot like “could of.” The latter, of course, is a grotesque grammatical mistake, and it should never see the light of day in your writing.

Auxiliary Verbs, Mistakes with could of

There’s a song. I don’t know how popular it is. It goes by the title:

“It Could Have Been You.”

Even though the songwriter got it right with “could have been,” you can Google “it could of been you” and you’ll find scores of websites reciting the lyrics as “it could of been you.”

Now why would web designers do that to the language? Because they know zero about the English language.

We Should of Had Him

How about the title to another article I saw on the Internet? Check out the excerpt:

We Should of Had Him By Larry Johnson

The key news from Gary’s book is that we had Bin Laden in our sights but Tommy Franks and JSOC Commander, Dell Dailey, dilly dallied and did not deploy U.S. troops requested by Berntsen to the battle at Tora Bora. We could of had him; we should of had him; but we let Bin Laden get away.

Come on now: could of had? should of had?

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

The word of is a preposition. As such, it must hook a noun onto the sentence. Do you see any noun serving as the object of the preposition of. Of course not. Because there isn’t one. The writer is trying to use the word of as an auxiliary verb. It simply is not an auxiliary verb.

Above the writer meant to use the auxiliary verb have:

We could have had him; we should have had him; but we let Bin Laden get away.

In speech, you’ll hear this expression shortened to:

We coulda made a fortune if we had sold at the right time.

Well, life is full of coulda, woulda, shoulda. And it’s fine to adopt those terms. In speech at Bubba’s Bar & Grille. But it’s not fine to butcher the language and show one’s ignorance by substituting of for the auxiliary verb have.

Where did this mistake come from? Most likely it originated from the contraction couldve for could have. In speech, people began to shorten could have to could’ve, which, unfortunately, sounds like could of.

Regardless of its origin, the mistake flags a person as one in dire need of help with the basics of grammar.

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1 Comment
  • Ken Sauter
    Ken Sauter
    thank you! A refreshing reminder of how to communicate clearly and properly, at least in one small instance. The butchering of language drives me crazy!
    LikeReply 26 years ago


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