Angela’s ABCs Cruelty to ‘of’
Cruelty to ‘of’
I received an email from a 10 year old friend of mine the other day which said:
‘She must of left her bag on her peg.’
And another young friend of mine wrote:
‘Who’d of thought it?’
You can hear and see it every day: ‘should of’, ‘would of’, ‘could of’, ‘might of’ and ‘must of’.
A mistaken hearing of ‘should’ve’, ‘would’ve’, ‘could’ve’, ‘might’ve’ and ‘must’ve’ which people now use in writing. I have seen this written often by school and college students who seem never to have been told that it’s a mistake.
Could this strange combination make its way, through common usage, into our language? If you know something about grammar, you’ll know that the construction is a nonsense, because it combines a modal verb ‘must’, ‘could’, ‘might’ etc. with a preposition ‘of’, and that just cannot be according to the rules of grammar. But maybe it can be according to the rules of usage. If something is widespread enough, it will eventually become accepted, regardless of what is correct.
For the time being, I’d like to make a plea for the correct construction, so that we write:
‘She must have/must’ve left her bag on her peg.’
‘Who would have/Who’d’ve thought it.’