Could have, could’ve or could of

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The expressions could have, could’ve and could of are confusing to some people. We will examine the definition of the terms could have, could’ve and could of, and which of these terms are considered grammatically correct.

Could have refers to a possibility, the ability to fulfill something. Could have is often expressed as the contraction could’ve, especially in speech. Could’ve sounds perilously likecould of, however could of is not correct and should never be used. Contractions have been around as long as the English language, many examples exist in Old English. Interestingly, while the use of contractions has always been popular in spoken English, there have been periods in history when the use of contractions in written English was frowned upon. Today, contractions such as could’ve are not generally used in academic and scientific writing, but may be found in more informal methods of written communication.


Scientists have identified a whole set of planets where life could have begun just like it did on Earth. (The Independent)

The explosion and loss of the firefighter in Sun Prairie could have been avoided if diggers would have dug out the hole carefully along with a gas detector. (The Baraboo News Republic)

Maybe he could’ve come to the Pirates at a cost less than that of the team giving up Austin Meadows. (The Tribune Review)

Earlier this week, she hit the streets in an all-white look that could’ve been worn to the gym just as easily as it could’ve been worn to go out with friends. (Teen Vogue)

In hind sight, that could’ve been a genius move on Akot’s part because now he’s a seasoned wing player with a year of college ball under his belt.  (The Arizona Daily Star)