Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda… gotten it right if you paid attention!

Of, preposition

1. (used to indicate distance or direction from, separation, deprivation, etc.): within a mile of the church; south of Omaha; to be robbed of one’s money.
2. (used to indicate derivation, origin, or source): a man of good family; the plays of Shakespeare; a piece of cake.
3. (used to indicate cause, motive, occasion, or reason): to die of hunger.

Have, auxiliary verb
1. (used with a past participle to form perfect tenses): She has gone. It would have been an enjoyable party if he hadn’t felt downcast.
Definitions courtesy of

These two words, “have” and “of” have different meanings. They are different parts of speech. This means they are used in different ways. And this explains why the following phrase drives me so crazy:

Could of / Should of / Would of

As in, “I could of gone to the store. I should of done my homework. I would of punched you in the face.” Also exhibited in the J. Geils Band song, “Must of Got Lost.” None of that makes any sense whatsoever.

Granted, there are multiple things wrong with the song title but let’s take a look at this: I could (origin) gone to the store. That doesn’t make sense. I could (cause) go to the store. Nope. I could (direction from) go to the store. Again, nope. But, if we use the right word (have), it makes sense: I could have gone, as in “in the past, there was a possibility of going.”

“Of” is not an auxiliary verb. It’s a preposition. A noun follows it. So “could of gone” MAKES NO SENSE.

Perhaps nitpicky, it drives me crazy that people don’t understand the difference between “Could have” and “Could of” (which makes no sense). When we talk fast we say “COULD’VE” not “could of.”

Could have / Should have / Would have


Could’ve / Should’ve / Would’ve

Consider this a public service announcement to GET IT RIGHT!

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