Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  November 5, 2011

“would of” instead of “would have” or “would’ve”

The phrase “would of” seems to be coming more and more common. I have heard it used in a number of films and have also seen it used in print when the author is depicting direct speech. However, I was amazed to see it used outside of the direct speech context in a novel I am currently reading. I appreciate that “would’ve” could be heard as “would of” but the increasing use of this phrase is damning testimony to the malaise that afflicts our language.

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The "ov" form has been around for quite a while. It's actually a fairly natural phonetic evolution of the truncated "uhv" sound you get in (for example) "would've".

I wouldn't worry about it myself.

However, when written as "of" (eg, "would of"), it's a spelling mistake. Unless, as you point out, the writer has done it quite deliberately to depict direct speech.

Though even there, I'm not sure why "would've" couldn't achieve the same result.

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"Would of, should of, could of" ... Outside of the slangy idiomatic saying, you're right ... even then it could still be written "would've, should've, could've" or I'd take "would'av(e), should'av(e), could'av(e)".

While I don't mind a little free-spelling ... I do it often enuff. I'm not sure that putting the preposition 'of' in place of the verb 'have' shows a lack of knowledge, a lack of caring, a lack of editing, or what.

What's the name of the novel?

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@AnWulf
"The Coffin Dancer" by Jeffery Deaver.
(Whose father, like Roald Dahl's, couldn't spell.) ;)

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Never seen the "ov" form, but "would ov" is no more correct than "would of".

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"Never seen the 'ov' form, but 'would ov' is no more correct than 'would of'."

I should've (ha!) pointed out that "ov" is not meant to be used as a substitute word for either "'ve" or "of" in written English but merely as a descriptive term for this particular usage.

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While I certainly enjoy the comment referring to the 'damning testimony of the malaise that afflicts our language', this is an artefact of natural language change, even if it is heading towards what could be seen pernicious homophony. The fact remains that these are used in separate contexts, and as such these forms would never actually be confused. Equally "would of" mimics the process of adding a vowel between the sounds /d/ and /v/, a vowel whose height and quality borrows from the /ʊ/ in the preceding word. Further, to my great dismay, it allows people to not use apostrophes (perhaps heading towards a place where the the apostrophe means possession, such as in the great confusion between "it's" and "its" ) It is actually quite justifiable, from a literacy point of view. (point've view?)
Confusing language and literacy (or orthographic convention) is easy to do but very problematic. If we are to judge English based on its orthography, we are long since damned.
Still, I agree, and it drives me crazy when I see it.

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@Jor
Please don't get me started on the misuse of apostrophes.
My brain might explode.

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As others have stated, in spoken form, this is just a minor variation on "would've" etc. Unfortunately, it seems that too many people fail to recognize that that is not "would of" so they write it that way.

In informal use, or when reflecting the conversational form, I tend to write it "woulda" which is closer to what I hear spoken.

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Perfect Pedant: I believe that JJMBallantyne was using 'ov' to describe a verbal pronunciation rather than a written word.

Jor: The words would've could've and should've are contractions of would have could have and should have. There is no usage in which would of would ever be correct (at least none that I can think of, and even if there were, I assure you that it would not be the meaning intended by these visually offensive occurrences we come across). the ending 've represents have, not of, and can't be used for point've view. That's just nonsense. I have never seen a separate context which you mention for would of - I have only encountered it where it should be would have.

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I think this goes right along with improper uses of "your" and "there." It boils down to laziness of children in school. Just look at the terrible grammar used in some graffiti.
Also, words like thee and thou are no longer common in English usage. I believe that English will continue to morph along with societal demographics. If you don't like it, welcome to Earth.

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"I think this goes right along with improper uses of 'your' and 'there.' It boils down to laziness of children in school."

Nonsense. When someone writes "your" for "you're", it's simply a spelling mistake based on their uncertainty with homophonous words. Being a poor speller is hardly an indication of laziness.

Given the eccentricities of our English spelling system, mistakes like this are not surprising.

Our written language almost invites such misspellings.

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@mrcaleb @JJMBallantyne

To a degree you are both right and wrong.
Although laziness, the eccentricities of the language, and societal demographics are all factors, my feeling is that it's more a case of "don't give a toss".
"I spiks how I spiks, an I will ware my cap front to back if I chooses. So chill bro. You feel me?"
As for morphingRather than laziness and p I wouldcorrect and yet

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Ignore last line of previous comment.
Forgot to clear before posting.
:)

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Heck, I'm a foreigner and it ruffles my feathers when I see the abomination that is "would of". What surprises me though is that more often than not it's natives who use it..? And I can't really blame that on homophony because I'm fairly certain everybody who was ever taught English in school learned that "would've" results from abbreviating "would have". Misspelling "definitely" is excusable but not fundamental things like that. That's simply slaughtering the language.

In fact, it's rather funny. Homophonous words are spelled completely differently whereas homophonous-looking words sound nothing alike. Like deaf and leaf. Or couch and touch. It's my personal banana skin. Compared to other languages, English pronunciation is all over the place (no offense).

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Here is an instance where "would of" is used correctly! Of course, it can only occur where correct punctuation has been used. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-30/romney...

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This just makes me nuts. Words have meanings, and WRITTEN words should not beg excuses for contemporary speech.

"Would Of" doesn't MEAN anything. It is senseless!
"Would Have" makes perfect sense.

"Of" does not equal "Have", and regardless of how it sounds in contemporary speech, the distinction must be maintained in written English.

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all the people i know that are grammar heads, still need a calculator to multiply 6 x 16. If G'day and C'mon are accepted in the English language why not "would of" especially with the vast range of English speaking accents, it is getting harder to set English spelling or grammar as written in the Queens English. you only have to look at the USA and it raping of the English language. And with that now being the dominant culture you are more likely to see the Americanized version instead of the Americanised version.

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I would certainly like to see the conjugation of the verb "to of".

I thought this was solely a usage in the UK, where all teaching of grammar ceased about 30/40 years ago. However, I recently found an American using "would of", "could of".

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My original comment still stands. "Would Have" makes grammatical sense. "Would Of" makes no sense whatsoever. Above all, language should make sense, it should convey a thought.

And 6x16 is 96. I did confirm that with a calculator (why not?) but I first computed it in my "grammar head".

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I wonder, regarding the use of 'would of', if it is more used in certain countries or if it is equally spread over the English speaking countries? My first thought was that this must be an Australian English dialect... Does it occurr also in England and in the USA?

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@Carl - as this excellent post by linguist Stan Carey at Sentence First shows, it is fairly ubiquitous.

http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/would...

But comments about it seem to come mainly from the States, and it has even appeared in an advertisement in the New York Times Magazine - "Our Store Hours Were Stated Incorrectly And Should Of Read ...". (quoted in Merriam Webster Dictionary of English Usage)

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I was really disappointed that House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski utilizes "would of" instead of the correct "would have," as well--takes the book down a few notches, unfortunately

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This error really shows poor basic education when done by a native speaker.
A normally educated native speaker should be able to distinguish between "have" and "of" even though both may sound similar when contracted in spoken English.

It's a different story for non-native speakers. But they often know even better because they've gone through their fair bit of studying grammar.

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Let me give you all a perspective from an EFL teacher in Rio, Brazil, where PORTUGUESE (NOT Spanish) is spoken.
Students of English in Brazil, students who learn English as a second language, who most of the time learn oral and written English (grammar) separately (because they make more sense this way), would never make such a mistake. Foreign students of English are not naturally familiar with the English Phonetic system, therefore, the FULL form "WOULD HAVE" is always seen before the contracted form "WOULD'VE", leaving no room for misunderstanding of its spelling or, for that matter, oral pronunciation.

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Apparently it's not only American. I'm Australian and I use it. Until a few days ago, when someone at work pointed it out to me, I had no idea it should be "have" and not "of". I still find it weird to use "have" in some contexts, such as "would have had"; it sounds a bit redundant. In my mind it should be "would of had". I guess old habits die hard; 30+ years of using "would of/could of/should of" took it's toll on me. The weird part is, I tend to say "You shouldn't of have" when I mean "You shouldn't have", because the "have" part is new, and the "of" part is always there for me... LOL. Leaving it out would feel like something is missing.

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To suggest that people use "would of" instead of "would have" is absolutely nothing to do with having a non-native English teacher: so far every time I have encountered this abomination it has been committed by a native speaker of English. And it is not an equal "spelling mistake" to something like 'their' for 'they're' or suchlike: it simply shows an incredible degree of poor language command on the part of the writer for all of those cases. And confusing of with have is the most awful example of this lack of basic language command yet. I teach 12-year-olds who learn English as a foreign language who understand the difference between a preposition and a verb.

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