Should of...could have?

I often, well, always write “could of.” Many have “corrected” my grammar informing me it is “could have.” I thought they were right. But today I find in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! the sentence “We might of,” said Brother Dunnykin sulkily."

So, who is correct, me and Terry Pratchett or you guys?

Us guys.

Pratchett is entertaining but he’s no guide to correct grammar.

It’s definitely ‘should have’, ‘could have’, and ‘might have’ but I would suspect that a fiction writer will have his characters speak in a manner fitting their personality and character.

The proper written form after the -ould auxiliaries is “have” not “of.” The confusion comes from both words in rapid speech being rendered as /uv/.

Fiction writers tend to make their characters speak, and sometimes write, with the natural style for their particular milieu.

Oh, and Bruther Dunnykin is not the only one speaking sulkily if you choose to put “corrected” in quotes. Normal literate English style is the custom here. We’re not the Grammar Police; you can write “l8r” or “shoulda” all you like – but you will also bear the obloquy of deciding to use chatroomese in lieu of standard English. In chat I too will shorthand and be colloquial, but it’s inappropriate, usually, to write posts using those forms.

It’s really should’ve and could’ve. There is a proper way to write what, at first blush, sounds imporper. I would treat “should of” as a spelling error rather than a grammatical mistake.

Right. “Could’ve” sounds like “could of,” and that’s what people write when they don’t know what they’re actually hearing.

I’ve also seen “could of” in novels, and it’s an abomination.

Brother Dunnykin isn’t supposed to be very educated, you know. I don’t know about in the US, but in the UK and lot of people (incorrectly) say ‘could of’ when they mean ‘could’ve’/‘could have’. Brother Dunnykin is supposed to be speaking in this manner. I doubt you could find any instances of Pratchett using ‘could of’ in naration rather than a character’s speech.

Damn. John Mace beat me. “Should of” and the like are ill-informed misspelling of “should’ve” and the like.

I’m certain that Pratchett knew exactly what he was doing, using sloppy English to help you visualise the character.

Consider Harry King (in The Truth): “Trolls are OK. They stop with me 'cos I pays 'em well.”

(I know people in London who speak exactly like this. And they usually have something to sell you!)

Or Otto the vampire: “Zere is alvays a vay.”

And who could forget Foul Ol’ Ron: “Millennium hand and shrimp. Bugrit.”

This sentence only makes sense if those people are “talking” via a teletype. You can’t say “could of” when you meant to say “could’ve”: Saying “could of” is the same thing as saying “could’ve”. They’re pronounced the same way. Now, it may well be that the speaker doesn’t know the proper spelling or derivation of what he’s saying, but then, it’s quite possible that the speaker doesn’t know how to spell anything. How can you claim that e’s using the wrong one, then?

If there’s a pause in the thought, then you can actually say “could of” instead of “could’ve.” My brother’s girlfriend did just that. She began to say how she “should’ve” finished something earlier, but she paused in the middle and it came out “I should … of done this last night.”

No it’s not, unless the speaker is a foreigner, learning the phrase purely phonetically. When a native speaker speaks, they are not just pronouncing sounds, they are communicating meaning. “Saying” “I will meet you by the sea” is distinct from “I will meat you by the see”. People who do not read will still realize they are different words that are pronounced the same.

Anyway, if you are using a quote with conventional spelling and alphabet, that is clearly referring to the meaning of words and not their pronunciation. If you are referring to the way words are pronounced, it is more proper to use the phonetic alphabet.

But even going with your argument, “CUDUV” is distinct from “CUD UV” and could’ve is pronounced by some people as “cuduv”, “cudav”, and “cudiv”.

In your accent, perhaps, but in the UK (which is where both Terry Pratchett and I live) many – perhaps most – accents clearly differentiate between the short schwa sound of “could’ve” and the short “o” sound of “could of”.

Yes indeed. As a teacher in England, I can spot the difference when my pupils say ‘could’ve’ and ‘could of’. And politely correct them. :slight_smile:

Absolutely. I’m sure Pratchett did this deliberately. In most British accents (and I like to think that the Discworld is “British” in this respect :wink: ) there is a clear distinction between “Might’ve” and “Might of”. When I read this passage I immediately got the mental image of an uneducated type stressing the “OF”. “We might of”. It’s the kind of thing a sulky child might say.

In other words, yes it’s wrong, yes Pratchett knew it was wrong (I’m sure his editor would have checked with him whether it was deliberate before the book was published, for one thing!) and yes it is effective in conveying something about the character.

This is probably a fine point and does not matter in any practical way, but it’s not a spelling error, it’s choosing the wrong word based on misunderstanding. Hearing, “. . .the problems with Turkey and Greece” but thinking they said, “. . . the problems with turkey and grease” is not a spelling error.

No you can’t. Adding a pause does not mean this is suddenly correct.

Would you think this is OK: "It is odd to pronounce a pause in the middle of a contraction, and I. . .of never seen one written before. "

Eye … of two agree!

Speaker isn’t saying that a pause makes it correct, just that the pause creates a way to say “could of” that is (while incorrect) discernable from “could have”.

Although I agree that the pause could just as easily be between “could” and “ve”, the prevalence of people thinking “could of” is correct would certainly cast doubt as to whether or not one doing so knows the correct way.

Oh well, it was worth a shot. Thought maybe either…or could be correct.

But are they saying the wrong word or do they have a speech impediment? It took years before I could pronounce Zs, let alone a half dozen other alike sounds. Also, I know what I’m saying and I can spell it but I’d be irked if you corrected me when I said, “Texas all wells.”