Would Have, Could Have and Should Have

Posted: March 3rd, 2014, 10:11 am   By: brittany.corners

“I walk out into the kitchen, and there’s frickin’ firemen here. One was tall, tan, and he looked Italian, so I would’ve smushed that.”—New mother Snooki, outlining her stringent criteria for copulation.

This week, we look at a common mistake involving would have, could have, and should have.

You can’t always trust what your senses tell you. For example, perhaps cockroaches look tasty, but you’re going to want to avoid eating dozens of them. Maybe that liquid nitrogen cocktail seems appetizing, but you’re going to need surgery to remove your stomach. The new action movie starring Tyler Perry may appear to be a malignant mass of oozing, rotting detritus, but . . . wait, no, you’re right about that one.

What you hear in everyday speech could also lead you astray in your writing. Namely, the use of contractions like would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve can result in gargantuan grammatical gaffes: would of, could of, or should of. Oh, the humanity.

How many times have you seen these errant phrases on a friend’s MySpace profile, crammed between links to sweet Papa Roach videos? What about when you’re asking people for their ASL via AIM? Don’t even get me started on the Friendster messages I receive. It’s a pervasive problem, for reals.

The source of this problem is simple to diagnose: we hear someone say “would’ve,” and it sounds just like “would of.” Likewise, “could’ve” mutates into “could of”—and the same goes for “should’ve.” These tiny misperceptions can lead to great big atrocities. After all, what makes you look sillier than dropping a big fat “should of” in the middle of your writing? It’s almost as bad as getting busted with a Blu-ray of Jungle 2 Jungle.

To avoid committing this embarrassing erratum, always remember what’s behind the contractions could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve: the ‘ve is short for have, not of.