July 24, 2014

Weekly Language Usage Tips: must have or must of

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:21 am by dlseltzer

Tip: must have or must of

A reader writes:

I have an idea for wlut. I don’t know if you’ve already done it, but I get confused with ‘must have’ or ‘must of.’ When do you use each?

 Ah, thank you dear reader, because this is a really common problem, and I don’t think we have talked about it before. It goes along with “coulda, woulda, shoulda,” because what I have to say goes for those words, too—could, would, should.

You ask when to use ‘must have’ and when to use ‘must of.’ The answer is easy but not always easily done. This is it:

 ‘Must have’—always.

 ‘Must of’—never.

 “Say what?” you say. “Yup,” say I.

To be grammatically correct, the word you want, here, is ‘have.’ You would say:

 She must have… You should have… He could have… I would have…

 So where did the ‘of’ formation come from? Some speculate that it is derived from the contraction: must’ve, would’ve, should’ve, the pronunciation of which sounds a lot like ‘must of, would of, should of.’

That’s certainly possible. They do sound alike. Garner refers to people who use the ‘of’ formation, semiliterate. That’s a little rough.

Just remember: always ‘have,’ never, ‘of.’ And that should do it.

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