Word Forge

Wayne Rooney and the perils of “should of”

It’s never “should of”; it’s always “should have.” So how come so many people confuse the two?

Yesterday, Manchester United beat Liverpool. As a Liverpool supporter it was a tough watch, only briefly improved by Wayne Rooney missing a penalty. Post match, Rooney took to Twitter to celebrate the result and the contribution of his teammate, Juan Mata.

“Should of let Mata take the penalty,” he wrote.

That should have been “should have” but Rooney is hardly alone in confusing his ‘of’ with his ‘have’. Why is it such a common error? Well it seems to be a result of the way we speak affecting the way we write. When we talk we frequently shorten “should have” to “should’ve”. This contraction (say it out loud now) sounds like “should of”, which explains why it appears so often in our writing. The same applies to should’s cousins, would and could, and for the same reasons.

Given yesterday’s result I’m grateful to Rooney and his teammates for very little this morning – but at least writing this post has taken my mind off the game.

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