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Have / Of: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Check this category every week for a new set of ceaselessly confused, misused or misspelled words to master. Break the cycle of language abuse!

Have / Of

What trouble could these simplest of words cause? As it turns out, plenty. This mistake gives me a major headache, so I’m on a campaign to eradicate it from the universe. Here we go.

     “I would of loved to of gone to the concert but I didn’t have the money,” said Sass.

     “You should of told me that you needed money. I could of loaned you some,” said Pixie.

     “If I’d of thought of it in time, I might of,” said Sass. “But then I wouldn’t of known when I could of paid you back, so it’s just as well.”

     “It wouldn’t of been a problem, Sass,” said Pixie. “My dad has plenty of money for all of us. He’d of foot the bill!”

That was painful. What’s that you say? You don’t see a problem? That, my friend, is why it’s a problem. Let’s fix it right now.

     We often use contractions in our speech. We rarely say, “I wish you would have told me.” Instead we’ll say, “I wish you would’ve told me.” In spoken English “would’ve” sounds a lot like “would of” (which actually makes no sense at all since “of” is a preposition in a place where we need a verb). We may think we’re saying “of” but we’re really saying “have.” So we sometimes switch the contracted “have” (‘ve) for “of” in writing, too. Hence the travesty of language that appears in our little dialog above.

     Could’ve. Would’ve. Should’ve. Each ‘ve means “have” not “of.” This misconception then spills over to other conversational contractions like I’d’ve. Might’ve. Wouldn’t’ve. Love to’ve—words we say but don’t usually write. Then, instead of “I’d have” or “I’d love to have” we find ourselves writing “I’d of” or “I’d love to of.”  And pretty soon my head hurts so badly that I have to lie down.

     So here’s my advice. Stop it. Stop it now. Start stopping it by editing the dialog between Pixie and Sass and rewriting it correctly.

     Ah. My head is feeling better already.

    (Look for the corrected version on the Less/Fewer entry.)

Answers For Uninterested / Disinterested–Un, Un, Un, Dis, Un