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Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve taught these contractions?

My friend’s third grader came home with her word study list this week. On the list were the contractions could’ve, should’ve, would’ve and might’ve. My friend brought the list over to talk about it, and had real concerns about those contractions being taught. “I challenged [her daughter] to find any of those words in print. I know we use them when we talk, but I don’t think of them as being real words that should be used in writing.”

Grammar Central (opens in a new window) lists those contractions among its basics for communicating clearly, and those contractions are real words. But Grammar Girl (opens in a new window)agrees with my friend. Calling them “hazardous contractions,” words on Grammar Girl’s list include “could’ve,” “should’ve,” “would’ve,” “might’ve,” and “must’ve.” What makes them hazardous is that they encourage people to believe the proper pronunciations are “could of” and “must of,” rather than “could have,” “should have,” “would have,” and “might have.” According to Grammar Girl, it’s better to spell these out when you are writing them, though she acknowledges that you’ll probably find yourself using these contractions in regular speech.

Maybe those should be the two word study lessons for the week: (1) The “hazardous contractions” are formed with the word “have” rather than “of,” and (2) Recognize that for clarity’s sake, some words used in oral language are better left out of our written language.

What does your contraction curriculum include? Are these “hazardous contractions” included? And, if they are in there, how have you taught them?

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
September 23, 2009