'Could Have' or 'Could of': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 27, 2023

Wondering whether to use ‘could have’ or ‘could of’? And what is the difference between the two? We can help clear that up, plus teach you how to use the correct version of the phrase in a sentence.

In short, the correct spelling of this common phrase is ‘could have.’ You should never use ‘could of.’ It’s a common error made by writers and sounds correct based on the way we pronounce the phrase, but the correct spelling is always ‘could have.’

‘Could Of’ or ‘Could Have’ – Which is Correct?

As you just learned, ‘could of’ should never be used. The only correct way to spell this phrase is ‘could have.’

If you think about the words, ‘could of’ doesn’t make grammatical sense when the two words are put together.

There’s no way to form a sentence correctly and grammatically with that phrase. Therefore, you should avoid using it in your writing.

Is ‘Could Of’ an Accepted Form of ‘Could Have’?

The short answer is no. There’s no acceptable way to say the phrase except ‘could have.’ So, don’t use it in your writing in any case.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Could Have’

The phrase ‘could have’ could be defined as something that was possible in the past, even though it didn’t happen.

Example: You could have been killed.

It’s also used as part of at least three idioms:

  • You could have fooled me (used to say that something seems surprising or doubtful based on observation)
  • I could have sworn (used to say that someone feels very sure about something, even though it appears not to be true)
  • You could have knocked me over with a feather (I used to say that someone was extremely surprised when they found out about something)

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Could Have’

Wondering how to pronounce this phrase? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce ‘could have,’ here’s the phonetic spelling: kUd hAv

How to Use ‘Could Have’ in a Sentence 

Now that we know what it means and how to pronounce it let’s see how to use the phrase in a sentence correctly.

  • I could have sworn I charged my phone last night, but it’s completely dead.
  • My mom said I could have as many candy bars as I wanted. It’s my birthday!
  • I could have done this myself. Why do we even do group projects in school anymore?
  • We could have just paid the bill. I have some money in savings.
  • I don’t think we could have asked for a better professor this semester. You’re awesome!
  • I could have been a baby model when I was two years old.

Final Thoughts on ‘Could Have’ and ‘Could Of’

To recap, ‘could of’ is not an acceptable or alternative way to say ‘could have.’ Never use it in your writing because it’s incorrect and ungrammatical.

If you ever forget what it means or how to use it, you can always come back for a quick refresher. We’ve got a ton of content on other confusing words and phrases as well, so don’t be afraid to go check it out.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.