coulda woulda shoulda

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Wed Mar 6 17:03:59 UTC 2013

On Mar 1, 2013, at 7:11 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:

> 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,

it was certainly notable/noticeable 40 years ago; people were already complaining about the "loss of the subjunctive".  "would have"/"would've"/"would a"/"would of" offers one alternative to older subjunctive forms for counterfactual conditionals in "if".

> but whether or not it's currently increasing I'm not sure.

i'm not sure either and it wouldn't be easy to track.

>  I'm not sure I see the reanalysis, though...

the virtue of the versions with "would" is that they use the same construction in the antecedent and consequent of these conditionals; this construction is then simply the mark of counterfactuality.


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