Today I’m going to talk about fixing verb problems. (Verbs are action words like go, shoot, see. Forms of be are also verbs: is, are, was, were, and so on.) We’re going to focus on two common mistakes.
1. Could have, could’ve (correct!) vs. could of (wrong!)
I’ve often said that it’s the small, everyday words that get writers into trouble. Of is a good example, especially when you’re thinking about verbs.
Unfortunately many people (including officers!) sometimes write of when they mean could’ve or could have. (Could’ve is a contraction of could have.) When you’re speaking, “could’ve” and “could of” sound the same. As a result, of creeps into a sentence even though it doesn’t belong there.
The same problem crops up with should have and would have. Be careful to write should’ve, should have, would’ve, or would have – not should of or would of!
Mattson could of left through the bedroom window. WRONG
Mattson could’ve left through the bedroom window. CORRECT
Mattson could have left through the bedroom window. CORRECT
It’s a good idea to write out “have” in instead of abbreviating it. That practice will help you avoid the embarrassment of using of incorrectly.
2. It’s easy to forget to add the –ed ending for verbs, for the same reason: You don’t clearly hear that –ed when you’re talking. Read the following sentence aloud, and you’ll hear what I mean:
Joan had hoped for a promotion, and she finally received the good news this morning.
Chances are you barely heard the -ed in hoped and received. That means it’s easy to forget about that -ed when you’re writing, especially if you’re tired or rushed.
So here’s what you need to know. The -ed ending is often necessary when you combine a verb with has, had, have, be, been, is, are, was, and were:
Lucy has lived on Tenth Street for two years.
Although we have wished for a new building for a long time, we’re unlikely to get it.
The report is finished.
Several people are already lined up and waiting.
And so on. These tips are easy to apply if you concentrate and double-check your reports – and they’ll help you avoid many errors!