coulda woulda shoulda

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Mar 1 15:11:07 UTC 2013

On Mar 1, 2013, at 9:45 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> "Would have" now appears to the be the conversationally preferred for
> "had." I hear it constantly and, if you're talking about people under
> forty, virtually without exception.
> This has been increasing for years. In my own experience, perhaps thirty or
> more.
> My SWAG is that it started partly as a phonetic misunderstanding: "If I'd
> have..." > "If I would have." This then begins to replace "If I'd..."
> But Arnold is undoubtedly the expert.
> JL

He is indeed and can no doubt confirm the extent of the recency effect operating here; I'm sure it's been around for at least decades, but whether or not it's currently increasing I'm not sure.  I'm not sure I see the reanalysis, though--what could "if I would have..." be a phonetic misunderstanding of?  What else would "If I'd haveā€¦"  It's not like "If I had have seen it" is a likely source, and while "If I'd had it" is fine, that's main verb _have_.

> On Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 9:28 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at>wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: coulda woulda shoulda
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> I read the two as having two different meanings. The "would have" means
>> the intended audience had the opportunity but didn't take it.
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Seattle, WA
>> On Mar 1, 2013, at 6:21 AM, David A. Daniel <dad at POKERWIZ.COM> wrote:
>>> Has anyone else noticed increased use of the conditional where it doesn't
>>> belong? I just saw this on, "Do you wish you would have learned
>>> computer programming when you were younger?" Or am I just getting
>>> oversensitive in my old age?
>>> DAD
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