An English YouTube teacher is annoyed at some common mistakes his countrymen make. At ~2:20 in this video he says:

Would of, could of, and should of.

These aren't things. Stop.

Why? Is this an idiom, or do I just not understand well?

The presenter is criticizing some bad habits in English usage and pronunciation. After more listening I found out that the meaning of the phrase in question might be this: "These expressions as they are have no meaning, they are incorrect and should not be used." Could this be the meaning of what I was asking about?

  • 3
    Can you link to the video so there is context for the statement? My guess is that he means, "These are not familiar phenomena or established traditions." Waiting in line is a thing, while spitting for distance and expecting service in that order is not a thing.
    – jejorda2
    Apr 5 '18 at 18:37
  • I'm guessing you've given an inaccurate transcription, perhaps omitting a premodifier (like 'trivial'). '... I just do not understand well?' shows that your command of English is not perfect. Apr 5 '18 at 18:43
  • This would depend on the context (hence why you should link a video). Besides Stan's answer below and jejorda2's comment, another possibility to this phrase could be to emphasize the ridiculousness of the mistakes he lists. Some extensions of this phrase with the same meaning would be "These aren't things that people do", "These aren't things that should exist", "These aren't things that can be constructed." Again, a video link would be best.
    – user70564
    Apr 6 '18 at 2:54
  • 2
    @jejorda2’s guess is quite plausible.  See Jon Stewart saying ‘‘That’s not a thing’’ with exactly the meaning that jejorda2 suggests.  Warning: contains political opinions.
    – Scott
    Apr 6 '18 at 3:57
  • The speaker says, and the video shows that would of, could of and should of "are not things." The teacher means that they do not exist, at least in standard written English--although they are used commonly to represent dialogue in certain novels, some by famous novelists. But the phrase means: They don't exist (in the realm of usage that I am telling you about). Apr 6 '18 at 15:39

What he's saying is that "would of, should of, and could of" are not actually what people should be saying. They are deviations from "would have, should have, and could have", respectively. However, each of those becomes, "would've, should've, and could've", and eventually later become the "of" versions of each that are currently being contested. To back me up, here's an English language school's blog as a source.

I'm not a linguist, but this seems like a natural part of language evolving, much in the same way a word like "ratchet" could possibly derive from rat-shit or wretched and as time goes on it could become enough of a part of the English lexicon to be considered correct to use. This opinion is contrary to the Youtuber's opinion that "these are not things", which is to say that "these are not proper form in English".


No, it's not an idiom. What he's saying is basically this: these aren't things that you can really say. We could even paraphrase his sentence like this: this is not something you/people really say. Things here means something one does not wish to give a specific name to. We often use the plural noun things to refer to something that we, for whatever reason, can't or don't want to directly specify. Compare the way he's using things with these examples:

What kinds of things do you like to do in your free time?

— He did things to me.
— What kinds of things?
— Terribly things. He beat me, called me names and otherwise degraded me.

  • Thanks, your examples brought me to understanding the problem! In the same way you (English) probably say: Sg. This is something - Pl. These are things. Neg. sg. This is nothing. Neg. pl. These are not things. Now I am sure I understand.
    – Mirek51
    Apr 12 '18 at 14:09

Maybe the implication is that these items are not merely things or just objects with no value or use.

As in:

These aren't things. They are persons.

These aren't things. These are cherished possessions with intrinsic value.

This isn't a thing. This is my dog.

Things are the lowest objects in our purview as humans. We demean an asset when we refer to it as a mere "thing."

  • You're just guessing at this point, so it seems to me like there's a good chance this answer is wrong and may mislead the OP. (This is why it's best not to answer unclear questions.)
    – Laurel
    Apr 5 '18 at 21:07
  • @Laurel YES. Thank you. I tried to avoid this by introducing my answer with "Maybe."
    – Stan
    Apr 5 '18 at 21:10
  • The OP has now added the video the quote is from, so you should check it out.
    – Laurel
    Apr 6 '18 at 15:37
  • @Laurel I think the question is clear now. What may still be unclear is what the speaker intended, but that's a different issue.
    – Mitch
    Apr 6 '18 at 15:43

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