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Grammar Rant: Would/Could/Should Have*

Grammar Rant: Would/Could/Should Have* published on No Comments on Grammar Rant: Would/Could/Should Have*

OhSpock-300x225, how the Grammar Goddess inside me cries bitter tears of disappointment whenever I see this all-too-common grammatical error:

I would of gone to the party, but I had to save the planet from certain doom.

No, no, a thousand times, NO!  Allow me to explain.

For simplicity, the English language, as well as many others, is frequently thought to consist of three main verb tenses (times):  Past, present and future.  However, there are really many more than that:  Present Progressive, Past Progressive, Future Perfect, Conditional, etc.

First, let’s correct the example sentence above.  Instead of reading “would of,” it should read “would have,” as inwould have gone to the party, but I had to save the planet from certain doom.”

The “would have” construction is referred to as the past conditional.  It is conditional because it introduces certain conditions (having to save the planet), and it is past conditional because the sentence expresses something that would have occurred in the past if the conditions (not having to work) were favorable.  Since the party has, regretfully, already taken place, “have” is acting as a helping verb to “would,” placing the action of the verb into the past.

Present tense conditional:  I would go to the party, but I have to save the planet from certain doom.
Past tense conditional:  I would have gone to the party, but I had to save the planet from certain doom.

Of course, “would have” can and is frequently shortened to “would’ve.” Which sounds a lot like “would of.”

Then again, if we follow that logic, would you have any problem sipping pee soup as opposed to pea soup?  I thought not.

The word “of” isn’t even a verb!  It is a preposition, which is a word that introduces a noun and links it in some way to the rest of the sentence.

In short, helping verbs (like “have”) and prepositions (like “of”) come from two completely different parts of the Grammatical Galaxy.  They are light years apart and should NEVER be confused with one another.

Just like pea soup and pee soup.  Or a Vulcan and a Klingon.

Live long and prosper in grammatical righteousness.

*The content of this post was suggested by my good friend, Paula Grossman, a fellow Grammar Goddess.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!

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