Common English Errors: Of and Have

Could of? Must have? Would have? Should of? Could have? Would of? Should have? Must of? Which is right?! Read on to discover the shocking truth about these words!


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This common English error comes about through small slip ups made in spoken English, which then get transferred to written English.

The correct usage is could have, must have, should have, and would have. That's it.

I should have gone to that lecture, but I played with the ducks instead. I could have done the right thing, but I didn't. I would have gone if I'd known they were going to give out free jelly snakes! I must have been mad to have skipped class!

Where the error comes in is that people often make a contraction of words in spoken English, slurring two words into one another and dropping the occasional letter here and there. The ha from have gets lost in this instance. So could have ends up as could've, would have becomes would've, must have is shortened to must've, and should have becomes should've.

Now, some sounds in English are very similar to one another! F and V are two such sounds. 'VE and OF sound very much the same. So could've sounds quite a lot like could'of, would've sounds like would'of, must've sounds like must'of, and should've sounds like should'of. These then get expanded to could of, would of, must of, and should of. All of which are incorrect.

So remember you HAVE to HAVE the HAVE and you won't get tripped up!


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Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 08:00
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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