Another prescriptive vs descriptive discussion - would've, should've this time.

< Previous | Next >

Brioche

Senior Member
Australia English
Is a contraction for or is used as a contraction? When you say that you use them all the time, AngelEyes, do you mean in writing?
An example that comes straight to mind is one of Eliza's songs in My Fair Lady:
"I could've danced all night ..."

should've gets 1.5 million hits in Google.
could've gets near 2 million
would've gets 5 million
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    And it's this type of contractions is limited to spokent English, but of course when you use diagolues in writing, they have to reflect actual pronunciation, thus the use of should've in many cases (and other modal verbs + contracted have)
    With all due respect, I strenuously disagree. Were we to write (and spell) dialogues based on actual pronunciation, much written text would be unintelligible. I'm all for the evolution of language but the acceptance of "made-up" contractions in a sample sentence simply because some people slur their words is astounding to me. I understand that the original question was about the grammer but when the original question also contains words that simply do not exist, wal, there're jest sam thangs Ah cawn't except.:)
     

    anglicana

    Senior Member
    France
    and this is exactly what I am saying! You DO find such spelling in certain dialogues of certain books! How wouold you convey somebody's strong mid-west accent? "Git outta here!" - that;s a common thing to see. And such forms as contracted forms of modal verbs are VERY common.

    There are two grammars: descriptive, and prescriptive. In case of could've or would've the pronunciation clearly derives from grammatical sources. Let's be descriptive sometimes, shall we? ;) Otherwise watching American movies wouldn't be fun at all :)
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    "it would've made a better shot" is not an expression I have heard before, at least not in American English. You could say "you would have had a better shot" (or "you would've had a better shot", I suppose, or perhaps "you'd have had a better shot" (where "you'd" is a contraction for "you would").

    Do y'all agree?

    Derek
    I believe it is clearly talking about a picture. It makes perfect sense.

    Dimcl said:
    Is a contraction for or is used as a contraction? When you say that you use them all the time, AngelEyes, do you mean in writing?
    I use them all the time in writing colloquially. Absolutely without a doubt is it acceptable in that form. I'm not sure what you mean by "in writing." If you're talking about formal writing, could you tell me what contractions are acceptable in formal writing? What exactly is the difference between "is a contraction for" and "is used as a contraction for?" Who gets to decide in English what is and isn't? I was always under the impression that overwhelming usage = acceptance by a linguist's standards.

    In my opinion, there is a clear distinction between "could've" and "could have" in spoken English as is evidenced by the oft-made mistake "could of." If I was on a usage board, I'd give this one the thumbs up for standard, informal writing.

    Dimcl said:
    With all due respect, I strenuously disagree. Were we to write (and spell) dialogues based on actual pronunciation, much written text would be unintelligible. I'm all for the evolution of language but the acceptance of "made-up" contractions in a sample sentence simply because some people slur their words is astounding to me. I understand that the original question was about the grammer but when the original question also contains words that simply do not exist, wal, there're jest sam thangs Ah cawn't except.
    I'm uncertain again what it is that you're so strenuously against. You know very well that all contractions are "made up," but if you believe could've, should've, and would've are not in standard, informal use, then you just need to do a Google search on it. The word was "made up," but so was "won't."
     

    anglicana

    Senior Member
    France
    Who gets to decide in English what is and isn't? I was always under the impression that overwhelming usage = acceptance by a linguist's standards.
    Very interesting, but apparently wrong conclusion. I'm all for contracted forms like could've, but strongly against acceptig "descritpive" grammar as standard. That would lead to changing it ver often - too often to follow. In the era of information and globalisation, when English has become international, there are so many varieties of it, that there must be something like "prescriptive" grammar. And it does exist. So let's accept the fact, that people speak in a certain way (they use contracted forms of HAVE with modal verbs), and we can reflect it in writing. But it doesn't have to automatically mean that this must be widely recognised as a standard and correct form of the language.
     

    Tresley

    Senior Member
    British English
    Don't Americans say "woulda", "shoulda", "coulda" where we British generally say "would've", "should've", "could've"?

    Is this why Americans don't recognise it?

    "This woulda made a better shot"?

    Please advise.
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    Very interesting, but apparently wrong conclusion. I'm all for contracted forms like could've, but strongly against acceptig "descritpive" grammar as standard. That would lead to changing it ver often - too often to follow. In the era of information and globalisation, when English has become international, there are so many varieties of it, that there must be something like "prescriptive" grammar. And it does exist. So let's accept the fact, that people speak in a certain way (they use contracted forms of HAVE with modal verbs), and we can reflect it in writing. But it doesn't have to automatically mean that this must be widely recognised as a standard and correct form of the language.
    They are all as standard as the English language, which is not at all standardized. I think it can be relatively well-demonstrated that could've, should've, and would've are all entrenched into many educated people's common informal writing, regardless of your willingness to accept it or not. In the era of information and globalization, the world has found itself open to many different aspects of the quirky English language and it is far from standardized. For verification of this, just check the hundreds of threads started in the past about which particular kind of English people should learn: BE, AmE, AusE, CanE, IndE, etc. You could very well be making the exact same argument about a more ludicrous contraction such as "won't," but why is that OK?
     

    anglicana

    Senior Member
    France
    first I guess we'd have to make a clear division between fast, careless speech, and ordinary, distinctive pronunctaion. All te contracted, invented and shortened forms fall into the fisr category. In fast speech you use the so-called weak forms of pronouns, articles, and of course you speak indistinctively. Thus such forms as WOULDA or COULDA, or probably many others. Of ocure Americans are the ones, who mostly introduce them With all recpect, but this is just the cultural difference. I'm not saying it's bad - it's just the way it is.
    The second category is the dictionary pronunciation. Someone might say it's exaggerated, or artificial. Well, if words are overpronounced, then of course it is. But carefulness while speaking in my opinion only proves, that the speker has respect for the listener. Of course in this category there are also all the weak forms accepted by standard pronunciation, like RP.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I'm uncertain again what it is that you're so strenuously against. You know very well that all contractions are "made up," but if you believe could've, should've, and would've are not in standard, informal use, then you just need to do a Google search on it. The word was "made up," but so was "won't."
    I'd like to point out that I never said they weren't (oops!!) in standard, informal use. I said there was no such word as "should've" and by that, you know very well that I meant in the dictionary. As for Google being some kind of evidence for "standard, informal" use, let's try this:

    accomodate - 7.3 million hits
    surprize - 6.6 million
    equiptment - 987,000
    ignorence - 78,900
    real nice - 19,900
    real good - 1.3 million

    I could go on ad nauseum but I'm sure you get my drift. I know that people use "should've" and "would've" all the time but I also know that it's incorrect to concur that something is "acceptable" citing "standard, informal" use. :eek:
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    How's this:

    I should've bought that pretty white angora sweater when it was on sale last week. I would've, too, if I hadn't already spent too much money on other things. If I had, I could've worn it to the Christmas party today and looked really pretty!

    Now that I think about it, I should have also purchased that hot-looking blouse that was on sale, as well. I would have been able to wear both of them to the party, and I could have looked doubly pretty in the process.

    Oh well, you know how it goes: shoulda, woulda, coulda...:)

    Both ways work equally the same for me.


    AngelEyes
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    I'd like to point out that I never said they weren't (oops!!) in standard, informal use. I said there was no such word as "should've" and by that, you know very well that I meant in the dictionary. As for Google being some kind of evidence for "standard, informal" use, let's try this:

    accomodate - 7.3 million hits -misspelling
    surprize - 6.6 million -misspelling
    equiptment - 987,000 -misspelling
    ignorence - 78,900 -misspelling
    real nice - 19,900 -slang/colloquial
    real good - 1.3 million -slang/colloquial

    No contractions...

    I could go on ad nauseum but I'm sure you get my drift. I know that people use "should've" and "would've" all the time but I also know that it's incorrect to concur that something is "acceptable" citing "standard, informal" use. :eek:
    You say that the "word doesn't exist" because it does not show up in "the dictionary." I question what you mean by "acceptable" if you agree that people use it all the time. If you don't believe that educated people use it in informal, yet not abbreviated and slangy, speech all the time, I can send you the texts of hundreds of relatively formal emails I've gotten over the years that use writing exactly like this but include should've and would've. Regardless of whether it's in the dictionary or not, should've, would've, and could've have entered the common lexicon as the informal way of writing should have, etc. When writing informally, but not so far as IM speak, people prefer should've, etc. because it's a friendlier way of saying it. There actually is a difference between should have and should've in spoken and written English, and when I'm speaking to an acquaintance online, I wouldn't often bring it to the formal level of writing "should have."

    Regardless, I think we can both agree that it is better than "should of."
     

    Tresley

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'd like to point out that I never said they weren't (oops!!) in standard, informal use. I said there was no such word as "should've" and by that, you know very well that I meant in the dictionary. As for Google being some kind of evidence for "standard, informal" use, let's try this:

    accomodate - 7.3 million hits
    surprize - 6.6 million
    equiptment - 987,000
    ignorence - 78,900
    real nice - 19,900
    real good - 1.3 million

    I could go on ad nauseum but I'm sure you get my drift. I know that people use "should've" and "would've" all the time but I also know that it's incorrect to concur that something is "acceptable" citing "standard, informal" use. :eek:
    I know that "Corronation Street" is shown on the telly in Canada. Watch the programme and listen carefully. The actors say "would've", "could've" and "should've"! That's the way it's written (and it's NOT spelt wrong! Most of your examples from Google ARE spelt wrong). "would've", "could've" and "should've" are all standard contractions. Believe me - it's acceptable and taught to foreigners as standard contractions to boot!

    Do you prefer "woulda", "shoulda" and "coulda"? UMPH!
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    The nuns taught me all I know about contractions. They even gave us a simple definition of it.

    A contraction is a word that's made from two other words that are put together with each other to make a shorter word. The apostrophe is used in the space that's left blank by the removed letters.

    It was always taught as a legitimate part of English in my world.

    can not = can't
    are not = aren't
    will not = won't

    ...and on and on...

    I suppose it's different in each country. In the US, I don't think we'd ever want to part with them. They're - I mean they are - friendly words that make you feel comfortable, cozy, and easy-to-be-around.

    Now if I were to meet the Queen, I might stand up straighter and throw those words on the floor, kick them unobtrusively away with my shoe, and bring out the proper words that make me look a little more sophisticated.

    Otherwise, I shan't live without them. :D


    AngelEyes
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I know that "Corronation Street" is shown on the telly in Canada. Watch the programme and listen carefully. The actors say "would've", "could've" and "should've"! That's the way it's written (and it's NOT spelt wrong! Most of your examples from Google ARE spelt wrong). "would've", "could've" and "should've" are all standard contractions. Believe me - it's acceptable and taught to foreigners as standard contractions to boot!

    Do you prefer "woulda", "shoulda" and "coulda"? UMPH!
    If you had been reading my posts, you wouldn't ask such a question - yeah, sure... I really prefer "woulda", "coulda", "shoulda"!!:eek:

    My examples from "Google" were cited as evidence that one can't rely on "Google" as an illustration of "standard and informal" use. Whether something is a misspelling or a contraction that isn't in the dictionary, use by the Internet community isn't usually a great frame of reference.

    And, with all due respect to "Coronation Street" (that's one "r", by the way, not two) the one episode I did watch convinces me that I won't be making that my source for whether something is "acceptable" in the English language or not.

    And when "foreigners" are taught English and are taught that "should've" is a "standard contraction", what are they told when they can't find it in a dictionary? That "it will be in the dictionary in due course when enough people use it to justify it's entry but don't worrry about it, just go ahead and use it anyway"? Yikes!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Came late to this party...should've checked my watch. Sorry.

    Would've brought all ten pounds of the Random House Unabridged, but I'd've hurt my hand, so...

    Please stop saying that contractions are not in "the dictionary". Here is a passage from RHU:

    —Usage note Contractions such as isn't, couldn't, can't, weren't, he'll, they're occur chiefly, although not exclusively, in informal speech and writing. They are common in personal letters, business letters, journalism, and fiction; they are rare in scientific and scholarly writing. Contractions occur in formal writing mainly as representations of speech.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    They are all as standard as the English language, which is not at all standardized.
    I would say, on the contrary, that English is indeed standardized, but this standardization is based upon usage, not upon prescriptive edicts.

    All that one needs to demonstrate this is to look at modern general dictionaries. Even those that are sometimes thought to be prescriptive contain content which would never pass any prescriptivist's pen (or word processor), because all modern general dictionaries, without exception, are based upon linguistic principles.

    I think it can be relatively well-demonstrated that could've, should've, and would've are all entrenched into many educated people's common informal writing, regardless of your willingness to accept it or not. In the era of information and globalization, the world has found itself open to many different aspects of the quirky English language and it is far from standardized. For verification of this, just check the hundreds of threads started in the past about which particular kind of English people should learn: BE, AmE, AusE, CanE, IndE, etc. You could very well be making the exact same argument about a more ludicrous contraction such as "won't," but why is that OK?
    While won't is used as the contraction of will not, it is actually a contraction of a dialectal and/or archaic form of will, woll not.

    I agree with you that could've, should've, and would've are standard in the informal usage of educated people. That includes informal standard writing, including that written by some American newspaper columnists.

    Is there actually any modern general dictionary which either does not have these terms or does not have 've as a separate entry?
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Came late to this party...should've checked my watch. Sorry.

    Would've brought all ten pounds of the Random House Unabridged, but I'd've hurt my hand, so...

    Please stop saying that contractions are not in "the dictionary". Here is a passage from RHU:
    There's not much point in continuing a discussion where posts are not read and words are put in one's mouth. I never once said that contractions are not in the dictionary. I said that "should've", "would've" and "could've" are not in the dictionary. To suggest that they are perfectly acceptable because there are other contractions cited in dictionaries is ludicrous.

    "I'd've hurt my hand..." Very droll...
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    There's not much point in continuing a discussion where posts are not read and words are put in one's mouth. I never once said that contractions are not in the dictionary. I said that "should've", "would've" and "could've" are not in the dictionary. To suggest that they are perfectly acceptable because there are other contractions cited in dictionaries is ludicrous.

    "I'd've hurt my hand..." Very droll...
    Hmm, let's take a closer look at the matter.

    A number of dictionaries show 've as an entry, a contraction of have. The Encarta World English Dictionary, North American ed., does, for example, and the word is not marked as slang or as being otherwise nonstandard.

    Given that dictionary entry, what would justify your identifying I've as nonstandard, or we've, or, for that matter, I'd've? Nothing. It's as ludicrous to claim that I'd've is unacceptable based simply upon what is that Encarta entry as it is to claim that I've is unacceptable. The dictionary has indicated 've is acceptablejust as acceptable as won't and in contrast to ain't, which is identified as nonstandardbut it says nothing about those circumstances under which contractions made with 've are not acceptable. To claim, based upon such evidence, that could've is unacceptable demonstrates flawed reasoning. We have to turn elsewhere to determine whether I've or I'd've or could've is acceptable in standard usage or not.

    Except, perhaps, in the case of that very same Encarta dictionary, because 've is accompanied by a usage note which refers the reader to the entry for of. The usage note under that entry says, "Note that could've, should've, and would've are contracted forms of could have, should have, and would have." No indication is given that those contractions are slang or otherwise nonstandard.
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    I would say, on the contrary, that English is indeed standardized, but this standardization is based upon usage, not upon prescriptive edicts.
    That is precisely the point I was making. There is no "standard," other than usage, and based on this standard, one can presume that "should've" should've been included in what is "standard," informal speech.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    That is precisely the point I was making. There is no "standard," other than usage, and based on this standard, one can presume that "should've" should've been included in what is "standard," informal speech.
    Oh well let's wade in here.

    1) Linguistic fundamentalism: The presence or absence of a word in the dictionary (or indeed in Google) doesn't help us. There are loads of dictionaries, and they vary. There is no one single 'correct' usage of English. No one has a right to 'The Truth' about words.

    2) Dynamic language: Where do dictionaries get their words from in any case? They simply list words that are used. By people. When people invent new words, lexicographers put them in their books - generally much later.

    3) The Golden Age: We should be wary of looking back to a moment when English was spoken 'correctly'. There never was such a time: English is ever-changing. And that is good: it's a sign of vitality.

    4) What language is for: Language is for communication. If a speaker or writer says something and you understand it readily, that is good language. Good communication = good language. The language we should censure is that which obscures or is ambivalent or causes misunderstanding (heaven knows there's enough of that in the world already).

    5) Snobbery: There is a dreadful temptation to look down on others who do not speak as we do. (I am greatly comforted by the fact that AE speakers exhibit this tendency just as much as we Brits with our reputation for class-consciousness.) Taking the moral high ground is always dangerous, and in language no less than elsewhere.

    6) Helping others: We native speakers can argue for ever (as this forum proves!) about the 'best' usage. This does not help non-natives. Let us strive to make things clear and simple for our fellow-men.

    7) Soapboxes are for standing on.

    That is the end of today's sermon.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top