Almost everyone says “could’ve,” “should’ve,” and “would’ve” when they speak casually to one another. It is the lucky few among those speakers who realize what the sound at the end of the words could, should, and would stands for.
- I could of been a contender.
- You would of loved me if I wrote better.
- He should of seen that coming.
The substitution of of in place of have comes directly from the way we speak. When spoken out aloud, “I should’ve attended your party” sounds like “I should of attended your party.” You’re safe if you write these as contractions, but if you spell it in two words, be sure to use have. You should have seen that coming.
MORE TO KNOW
The construction should have + the past participle (gone, stayed, said, etc.) and its siblings are all past modal verbs that describe something that did not happen in the past. They all carry a tinge of regret, don’t they? Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we have three different words for something that didn’t happen, for which we feel a little bit bad.