Although this used to be more of a spoken error than a written one, it’s quickly gaining as a written error, so I thought that I’d do a short column on it before there’s no turning back.
When saying Snoopy would have been a great World War I flying ace, most of us tend to shorten would have to either would’ve or, what’s worse, woulda, both which result in being spelled would of, which is a false grammar construction.
We say Snoopy would’ve (or woulda) been a great World War I flying ace and then write it as Snoopy would of been…. (Well, most of us probably don’t actually walk around talking about Snoopy and his flying prowess all that much.)
We say I should’ve (or shoulda) gotten a better grade and write it as I should of gotten a better grade.
We say He could’ve (or coulda) gone skydiving if he’d brought his own parachute and write it as He could of gone skydiving if he’d brought his own parachute.
The correct written constructions are could have (or could’ve), should have (or should’ve), and would have (or would’ve). There is no could of, should of, or would of—and that goes for might of, must of, and may of, too.