The Farlex Grammar Book > English Spelling and Pronunciation > Common Mistakes and Commonly Confused Words > should’ve, would’ve, could’ve vs. should of, would of, could of
should’ve, would’ve, could’ve vs. should of, would of, could of
When words are formed into contractions, they sometimes create unique speech sounds that are not simply shortened versions of the full word’s pronunciation. Because modern speech relies so heavily on contractions, this can occasionally lead to confusion as to what their proper spelling should be.
By far the most common of these is when have is contracted as ’ve and attached to a word ending in a consonant, most commonly should, would, and could. This results in ’ve being pronounced /əv/ (what’s known as a syllabic consonant), which sounds the same as of when it is unstressed in speech. Because of this, it is a common mistake to think that should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve are instead spelled should of, would of, and could of. For example:
- “I should’ve known this wouldn’t be easy.”
- “I should of known this wouldn’t be easy.”
- “Who would’ve guessed that the answer could be so simple?”
- “Who would of guessed that the answer could be so simple?”
- “We could’ve won if you hadn’t dropped the ball!”
- “We could of won if you hadn’t dropped the ball!”
It’s important to be aware that should of, would of, and could of are not correct in English, whether informal, colloquial, or otherwise; they literally do not mean anything. Be careful to always spell the shortened forms as the contractions should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve, and, if you are spelling them out in their entirety, should have, would have, and could have. These are the only correct spellings.
Finally, note that this also applies to the contractions might’ve and must’ve; the ’ve in these is also pronounced like of, but might of and must of are always incorrect.
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