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Is It “Could Of” or “Could Have”?

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There’s a reason why so many people incorrectly use “could of.” We’ll go over the proper spelling of this phrase, what it means, and how to always use it correctly.

Could of: Learn why this phrase is incorrect.
“Could of” and “could have”: One of these is right. Do you know which one?
“Could Of” or “Could Have”?

Could have is the correct spelling of this phrase. It often gets misspelled as could of because of how the contracted version of could have (could’ve) sounds when pronounced aloud.

  • I could have completed that in less time.
  • I could’ve completed that in less time.

“Could Of” or “Could Have”: What Is the Correct Spelling?

In English, not everything is as it appears to be. And not everything is as it sounds, either. Take a second to read the following sentence out loud:

I’m grateful because things could’ve been much worse.

Now take a second to read this sentence:

I’m grateful because things could of been much worse.

They sound identical, right? Phonetically, they are; grammatically, they aren’t. The first sentence correctly uses could’ve, but the second sentence incorporates the commonly incorrect phrase could of. Because could’ve sounds like you’re saying could of, many people mistakenly write could of.


Could of

Remember: could have is the only correct spelling of this phrase.

Giovanni said he could have gone home earlier, but chose to stay.

Giovanni said he could of gone home earlier, but chose to say.

There’s nothing she could have done.

There’s nothing she could of done.

I guess I could have tried harder, but I was exhausted.

I guess I could of tried harder, but I was exhausted.

When To Use “Could Have”

Now that we’ve gone over proper spelling, let’s go over what type of phrase could have is and what it means.

Could is a type of modal auxiliary, making could have a modal verb phrase.

It’s often used to express possibility or potential action in the past tense. In other words, it expresses a possible outcome that didn’t happen.

I could have gone to the event because I had a ticket, but I got sick.
It could have been fun, but unfortunately, the heavy rains forced us to cancel our plans.
She could have joined us if she wanted to.
They could have completed the project, but Jonas asked them not to.
Many things could have happened, but they didn’t because of unforeseen circumstances.

You’ll notice that,that as a modal verb phrase, could have is accompanied by a main verb. It should be noted that in some sentence constructions, the have in could have functions as the main verb.

You could have anything you want.

In the sentence above, could have does not indicate a past capability that didn’t come true.

Is It “Should Of” or “Should Have”?

The correct spelling of this phrase is should have. It’s used to express something that was expected or recommended in the past but did not come to fruition. The contracted form of should have is should’ve.

  • We should have gone to the gathering, but we missed the train.

Should of is incorrect and should not be used in your writing.

Using “Could Have” as a Contraction

The contracted form of could have is could’ve. Remember: Contractions are shortened forms of words or phrases that use an apostrophe to signal omission or certain letters. Keep in mind that contractions are usually found in informal writing.

I could’ve arrived on time if the bus hadn’t been late.
She could’ve been a doctor, but decided to follow her dreams of being an actress.
They could’ve won the game if they had played better defense in the final minutes.
It could’ve been a huge disaster if Thomas had not noticed the error.
He could’ve gotten the job, but he missed the interview.
Well, Is It “Would Of” or “Would Have”?

The correct spelling (as you may have guessed by now) is would have, not would of. Like could have and should have, would have is a modal verb phrase. It’s used to express something that was expected to happen but didn’t because something else didn’t happen first.

  • If I had gotten the invitation, I would have given it to you.

The contracted form of would have is would’ve.

You Could’ve Avoided Typos, But You Didn’t Use LanguageTool

Now that we know that could have is a verb phrase, it helps to remember what types of words of and have are. Have is a verb, but of is a preposition. Knowing this, you should deduce that could of is incorrect because of is not a verb.

Want to make it even easier? Then use LanguageTool as your writing assistant. This advanced, multilingual spelling and grammar checker corrects the incorrect use of could of and other commonly used incorrect phrases.

Try it out for yourself and watch your writing skills soar!

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