I confess: I stopped reading a blog post the other day because the author wrote “could of” instead of “could have.” It’s one of those errors that stops me in my tracks. The part of me that is an ultra-critical editor comes to the fore. It begins to nitpick other small errors in a post. I usually decide I have had enough of my critical sensibilities and leave a post before I can become unreasonably irate.
The word “of” is used mistakenly for “have” because of the way the word sounds. The “of” sound is similar to the “’ve” sound found in the contractions of helping verbs and “have”: “could’ve,” “should’ve,” “might’ve,” “would’ve.” Unfortunately, the word “of” is not a replacement for “have.” The two words may sound the same when “have” is a contraction, but they do not mean the same thing.
“Have” is a helping verb. It combines with other verbs to indicate time or other kinds of meaning. Not so with “of”; “of” is a preposition. As such, it connects things, usually a noun or pronoun to another word in a sentence. It cannot take the place of “have” because it doesn’t function in the same way. It can’t help a verb. It can, however, help a noun or pronoun to connect to another word.
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