Are you making this common mistake?
We learn to speak before we learn to read and write, so when we begin to put words onto a page it’s easy to confuse those that sound the same (also known as homonyms or homophones).
- Bred, bread
- Plane, plain
- Great, grate
- Led, lead
- To, two, too
- There, they’re, their
While the above words sound exactly the same all the time, two that don’t, but which I’ve noticed people frequently confuse, are OF and HAVE.
How so, some of you might be asking? OF and HAVE don’t sound anything alike!
Actually they do. Read the following sets of sentences out loud and decide which is correct:
- I should HAVE gone to the movies.
- I should OF gone to the movies.
- I should’ve gone to the movies.
- You could HAVE given me a little more notice.
- You could OF given me a little more notice.
- You could’ve given me a little more notice.
- We should HAVE paid more attention in English class.
- We should OF paid more attention in English class.
- We should’ve paid more attention in English class.
When you say the above sentences out loud, they sound identical, right?
But when written down they’re not the same, not even close. In each example 1 and 3 are correct, and 2 makes no sense. (Each 3 is a contraction of the 1.)
Just like mixing up the words I listed at the beginning of this post is no big deal when speaking because no one can tell the difference, mixing up HAVE and OF when speaking won’t raise any eyebrows. But people can tell the difference when reading, so be careful!