Should have vs Should of

The phrase should have indicates a missed obligation or opportunity in the past. In informal speech, it is contracted to should’ve, not "should of."

You should have (should’ve) called me!
You should of called me!

I should have (should’ve) known you were lying.
I should of known you were lying.

Tom and Pauline are so selfish, they should have (should’ve) been there for you.
Tom and Pauline are so selfish, they should of been there for you.

Should have should never be written "should of." However, the latter does exist: when should is followed by an expression that begins with of.

You should, of course, compare prices.
Past: You should, of course, have compared prices.

He should, of his own will, do the right thing.
Past: He should, of his own will, have done the right thing.

The Bottom Line

The erroneous phrase "should of" likely came about from the very similar pronunciation of should’ve. Perhaps I should’ve mentioned this sooner.

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14 Responses

  1. Tejas Nair 10 July 2014 / 04:03

    But I have seen the use of “should of” in many reputed websites and film subtitles.
    Also, many journals, published in NY and elsewhere do use the combination frequently, instead of “should have.”
    How could that be?

  2. lkl 10 July 2014 / 18:18

    That simply means that those sites, movies, and journals don’t have very good proofreaders. “Should of” in place of “should have” is 100% wrong.

  3. Tejas Nair 11 July 2014 / 04:07

    Okay, cool!
    Thanks for the reply!

  4. Isabelle 17 September 2014 / 07:53

    Thank you! I find it ridiculous that native English speakers are still making this stupid mistake. Also with ‘could of’. How do they get away with it??

  5. Maria Melo 17 September 2014 / 11:10

    It’s incredible the grammar and spelling mistakes people get away with. Every day I see them being made by high school and university students! I guess those people are simply “sloppy” and couldn’t care less.

  6. Njitram2000 4 November 2014 / 13:19

    @Maria, I’m happy you said “couldn’t care less” instead of “could care less” 🙂
    It seems the best grammar these days comes from non-native speakers….

  7. Plasti 31 December 2014 / 15:46

    @Njitram2000, That is very interesting. It makes sense that non-native speakers would speak the language better, because they are the ones who actually study it. Native speakers just kinda slap it together from their environment.

  8. MonkeyTamer 19 February 2015 / 01:13

    “Should of” is only incorrect today. However, language is not static. No one speaks like Shakespeare anymore. We don’t use the letters ð or þ in writing anymore. Heck, go grab a newspaper from your grandparents attic, no one writes articles like that anymore. Don’t be surprised if 10 years from now “should of” becomes an acceptable way to write should’ve.
    You can protest all you want about proper grammar, but you won’t be able to stop language evolving.
    Recently, we’ve seen “alright” go from inducing rage in everyone to having wide spread acceptance from all but the most stubborn Linguists.

  9. Jonathan 23 March 2015 / 06:17

    It’s not just poor grammar it’s not logical to say ‘should of’. I should of gone to the shops, I should of turned off the tap, I should of been nicer – none of these make logical sense. Which shop should you of/have gone to? Which tap should you of/have turned off? How should you of/have been nicer?

    I hear this used quite a lot these days and it’s very irritating.

  10. Mike 10 April 2015 / 14:18


    That would be classified as “dumbing down” of language. Not evolution.

  11. Heather 12 April 2015 / 08:10

    Because they don’t care about proofreading, or their proofreaders missed it, or really don’t know the difference. In any case “should of” is wrong everytime.

  12. Heather 12 April 2015 / 08:19

    I doubt very much that in ten year “should of” will be an acceptable way to write should’ve. It’s not a contraction of “should have” and never will be, so how can it ever be correct? It is grammatical laziness and wrong.

  13. Jeff Grimston 21 May 2015 / 07:09

    ‘should of gone to the shop’ can never be ‘correct’ as it makes no sense whatsoever. It’s just as daft as if we said ‘I should from gone to the shop’ or ‘I should belonging to gone to the shop’

    Even Professor Stanley Unwin made more sense than this.

    Ah deep joy!!!

  14. Maria 21 May 2015 / 09:44

    The cheap excuses people make up to cover up their ignorance and laziness!

    Of course it’s “SHOULD HAVE”.

    Imagine if each person wrote and spoke the any old way

Comments are closed.