This is interesting - if I write "should've" (for "should have"), my spell checker underlines the word. Same happens if I do "could've" (for "could have"). I use these forms but I'm starting to question if there even is such form and if I'm using English correctly?

I also noticed that "I've" (for "I have") doesn't get underlines by the spell checker, but "things've" (for "things have") does.

Can anyone explain this?

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    Turn off your spell checker. In general, don't trust any software or textbook about English grammar, spelling, or pronunciation. Some books are harmless, but all software is hopeless. – John Lawler Dec 20 '13 at 19:36
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    Those contractions are more informal than other contractions, but they are otherwise in common use. @JohnLawler Being sceptical of your spelling checker is good, but turning it off is not so good. It is a very useful tool. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 20 '13 at 19:39
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    "should've" is not in the spellchecker's word list. It's not particularly common in standard writing. – Mitch Dec 20 '13 at 19:41
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    @Cerberus: Not if you're not a native English speaker. Oh, and btw, what's your standard for "more informal than other contractions"? Is there an international formality meter? – John Lawler Dec 20 '13 at 19:42
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    @Cerberus: a very useful tool, you say? We've been over this a hundred times. A useful tool doesn't make you wonder if it is actually right. A useful tool should be running around moving the furniture out of your way, not piling it up right in front of you every which way you turn. – RegDwigнt Dec 20 '13 at 20:53

There is nothing wrong with those contractions at all. Your spell-checker, like most, is brain-dead.

  • By the way, note that should've, would've, could've are in fact pronounced /'ʃʊdə, 'wʊdə, 'kʊdə/. The final /v/ is almost always elided in pronunciation. And the intervocalic /d/ neutralizes to [ɾ] between a stressed and an unstressed vowel, too. – John Lawler Dec 20 '13 at 19:40
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    Oh, yeah, add a negative to a modal and watch the semantics fizz. – John Lawler Dec 20 '13 at 19:48
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    @JohnLawler: In many situations, many people do pronounce the v, as can be seen in typos like should of told her. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 20 '13 at 19:48
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    Not necessarily; anybody who thinks that's the correct spelling is likely to pronounce it the same way as somebody who thinks that should've or should have is the correct spelling. Spelling is not the same as pronunciation, and while it's true that sometimes some people say the /v/, it's much less likely in any given instance. People don't in fact pay attention to what they say, as long as they think they're saying something and nobody disagrees strongly. – John Lawler Dec 20 '13 at 19:53
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    for the record in BrE I hear the /v/ more often than not. – Brad Dec 20 '13 at 19:56

"Should've" and "Could've" are auxiliary verb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auxiliary_verb#A_list_of_auxiliaries_in_English) contractions, and are common in spoken American English.

"Things've" is not a contraction of the form described above - "things" is not an auxiliary verb, and is not as common as auxiliary verb contractions.

I will note that I was taught you usually should not use contractions in writing (there are exceptions of course - quoting, an author's style, etc.).

Contractions in spoken English, however, are much more prevalent and accepted.

  • @choster Very true. I made an edit to my answer. – Josh Dec 20 '13 at 20:39

This is not an issue of auxiliaries - the grammatical construction "should have done" is called a perfect infinitive, used with a modal and should not be contracted - AT ALL. you can contract anything you like when you speak, this should not be the case when you write. contractions are accepable in written english when you use a pronoun with an auxiliary, never with anything else - especially not with modal verbs. Of course it is just a matter of time when this becomes acceptable and the joke will be on me.

  • So your spell checker is absolutely correct, I'm afraid. – Andy who Mar 5 '15 at 11:11
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    What is your basis for saying any of this? – curiousdannii Mar 5 '15 at 12:15

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