Topic: Why Shoulda, Coulda, Should of, Would of? | English Speaking Habits

Pronouncing Modal Verbs in the Past


Modal verbs? What? As English speakers, we have lots of funny speech habits. To the average person, they may not seem like a big deal. But what about those that have decided to take on learning this complex language?

“Take on me-e … take me o-on!”

You can almost hear English singing in the shower. You might have heard such words as “shoulda” or “coulda” before. Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about here.

What are Modal Verbs, after all?

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (or helping) verb. This just means their purpose is to help other verbs to make sense. Modal verbs themselves are used to show a necessity or possibility. These are words like could, should, may, might, would, and so on.

In the past tense, modal verbs are often followed by the word “have.” This lets us know they are modals instead of a regular past tense verb. How do we know that “could” is acting like the past tense of “can,” or if it is expressing a possibility? We know it’s a possibility when it’s next to “have.” Look at this:

  • When I was younger, I could run a mile without stopping. (past tense of “can”)
  • I could have been a track star. (past tense of the modal verb “could,” shows a possibility)

Remember, modals don’t always need “have.” Adding it is used to show that this necessity or possibility was in the past. The same goes with should have, may have, might have, would have, and more.

You Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda … Used Correct Grammar

The habit I told you about earlier is that many people turn “have” into a simple shwa sound (“uh”) when talking. They basically get rid of the “h” and “v” sounds. This makes could have sound like coulda.

  • I coulda been a track star. (could have)

This is so common that we have an expression to mimic this; shoulda, coulda, woulda. Or coulda, shoulda, woulda. Woulda, coulda, shoulda? I guess it doesn’t really matter what order you say it in. Some people say this to express when it’s too late to do something and the opportunity has passed. Similar expressions are “that’s too bad,” “too late,” or “keep dreaming.” 

 — You know, I could have been a track star.

 — Yeah! Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Should of, Could of, Would of

To take it a step further, “have” can completely change and turn into “of.” This isn’t grammatically correct, but it happens because some people might pronounce the “could-a” like “could-uv.” This happens when we mean to contract “could have” and say “could’ve.” The pronunciation of the “of” sounds very similar to that final “ve” sound, so it’s easy to confuse the two in everyday speech. Many people who even know the correct grammar might make a mistake when writing or speaking and say “of” instead of the short “‘ve” because of how easy it is to switch the two. 

More info:

  • ‘Should have’ and ‘should of’ on Quora

*Try saying could of and could’ve out loud. Do you notice how similar they sound? 

Here are some more examples!

See, you shoulda / should of been more careful. 

I coulda / could of been a millionaire. 

She musta / must of been crazy to adopt a lion.


Thank you for reading! Check the Blog to see similar posts.

**Have a question about another English speaking habit? Is there something you don’t understand about the way people talk? Tell me about it and I’ll write a post for you, and offer other resources to better understand!

Contact me to collaborate or send a personal message at tietewaller@gmail.com or go to the Give Me Shout! page.

Contracting Words with ‘Of’ – English Speech Habits

a pink neon question mark in a box down a dark hallway, doubts about contracting words with 'of' in English speech
.

In English, like in any language, we speakers have some funny habits when it comes to using the language. Hey, at least it adds some character, am I right? Today I want to dwell a bit on this thing we do when we contract a quantifier word with the word “of”. This is similar to what happens when we combine “want to (wanna).” But first thing’s first; what in the Anglo-ing world is a quantifier?? Well, quantifiers are words that indicate a quantity (no, really!) or in other words, an amount of something. 

Contracting Quantifiers with ‘Of’

Some examples of this are: a little, a lot, many, some, a few

Read more about the types of quantifiers:

When describing an amount (or quantity) of something, some of these words are followed by “of.” 

  • a lot of cake; some of the cake; a bit of cake

Keep in mind, this is not all the time. Many quantifiers and some of their uses don’t have an “of” after them. 

  • some cake; a few cakes; many cakes

*“Some cake” and “some of the cake” can mean the same thing. Although, usually “some of the cake” sounds more specific (a piece of a specific cake) while “some cake” sounds more general (a piece of any cake)

When there is an “of” behind those quantifiers that need it, some speakers have a habit of combining the quantifier word with “of.” In this way, it forms a contraction. 

  • There’s a lotta cake left in the fridge. (a lot of)
  • Do you want to take home somma this cake? (some of)

This is more common in speech and when people are talking quickly. This habit is not a rule though, and these words are almost never spelled in the contracted way except in very informal text. It is also not universal and not everyone has this habit. Still, it is fairly common and a good thing to be aware of, say, when you talk with native speakers or watch TV. 

This plays into the larger trend of changing short words with the “shwa” sound (uh, like ‘of’, ‘to’, ‘the’) and just contracting them with a bigger word.

The most popular one of these you’ll notice in day-to-day speech will most likely be kinda. As a quantifier, it has about the same meaning as “somewhat” or “a little bit.”


Examples

Here are some other common instances of contracting quantifiers with “of.”

a bunch of

  • They’re a buncha sore losers. (They’re a bunch of sore losers.)

some of

  • Do you want somma my fries? (Do you want some of my fries?)

kind of (used as a quantity)

  • I kinda like him. (I kind of like him.)

a couple of

  • They’re just a coupla / couple’a guys hanging out. (They’re just a couple of guys hanging out.)

enough of

  • Okay, I’ve had enough’a this. (Okay, I’ve had enough of this.)

all of

  • Oh no! All’a / all’o the food is gone. (Oh no! All of the food is gone.)

We thank you for reading and learning new things! Feel free to explore more posts here on Cult-surf. Similar posts can be found on the Blog. Enjoy yourselves, and take care out there!

For contact or collaboration: tietewaller@gmail.com; Give Me a Shout

Nigerian English – learning about the accent

about the Nigerian accent of English with Nigerian national flags in the background
.

Hi, I’m Susan Rex from Nigeria and always being a Nigerian (Smiling). I’m thankful to Trystn Waller for giving me this alternative to a guest post about my country Nigeria and its accent (just in brief). I’m a Relationship Coach, helping to build healthy relationships. I hope you like this post and also share your thoughts with me as well.

Contact: (relationtipps@gmail.com)

My website: Link

Main Article


Nigerian spoken English is an amalgamation of British English and American English. The outcome is an imaginative clash of broken English and words that have cheerfully grown eternally distant from their original definitions.

Path to Getting the Nigerian Accent

Cutting out inner syllables

  • Medicine pronounces as “med-sin
  • Happy Birthday pronounces as “api betday
  • Concern pronounces as “consign
  • Get out as “gerrat
  • Start as “stat
  • With as “wit
  • Bathroom as “baffroom” etc.

Swap your “er” for “a”

  • Paper pronounces as “pay-pah
  • Father pronounces as “fathah
  • Mother as “mothah
  • Helicopter as “elucuptah” etc.


Nigerians also pronounce each of these groups of words in the same manner.


  • Work and walk (pronounced as same)
  • Bus and boss (pronounce as same)
  • Saint and sent (pronounce the same)
  • Curb and cub 
  • Hair and air
  • Ear, hear, and here (pronounce the same way).


Having the basic conversation

  🇬🇧 (Standard)

Hi

How are you?

No problem.

I’m walking please.

Please, where is the bathroom?

I don’t know.

I don’t understand.

 🇳🇬 (Non-Standard)

How far.

How you dey?

No wahala.

I dey waka abeg.

Abeg where the baffroom dey?

I no no.

I no sabi.


(Add “No” if you need to say that you don’t understand something or don’t have something. Also, Nigerians refer to older people as Auntie or Uncle, pronounced as “hanty or “uncul”, to show manners and respect.)


Let me remind you that if you are not a Nigerian, it will be hard to blend in with the accent. That’s one of the unique things about being a Nigerian; no one can take that away from us, not even those that colonized us. 

image written Nigeria and a map of Nigeria in the back, landscape of a city in Nigeria in the background
.

**I hope you enjoyed this article from Susan Rex and got some better insight into the unique accent of Nigeria! Please feel free to contact her with more questions, and read her website to get advice about healthy relationships. I appreciate you doing this guest post for us, Susan, and I look forward to seeing what others have to add about the Nigerian accent. Stay safe out there, people! Peace.

Read more: the Blog

Listen & Read: a Nigerian song in Lyrics “Explained”

Using ‘They’ for One Person – English Speaker Habits

What is ‘They’?

“They” is a common word, right? It is taught that “he” is for a male and “she” is for a female. If it’s me and you, then it is “we.” And if it’s multiple others, then it’s “they.” But English speakers have this funny habit of “they” that can be tricky for second-language students. “They” is often used to talk about one person. But normally, it is used to refer to a group of people whether all male, all female, and any other possible mixture of genders. Technically, it’s also used to refer to a group of nouns in general, but we’re focusing on people here.

“Correct” usage:

  • There are a lot of people at the door, and they don’t look happy.
  • The tree was full of apples, but they all fell down

The Singular ‘They’

Informally though, “they” can be used to refer to just one person. That’s what we call “they” as a singular pronoun. This may be for a couple of reasons.

Usually, it’s when we don’t know the person’s gender.

This can happen a lot in English because many professions and occupancies don’t denote a specific gender (e.g. teacher, classmate, student, doctor). In other words, we don’t know just from hearing the word if that person is a male or female.

This also may happen if the person’s gender is irrelevant to the conversation or if we want to hide the person’s gender on purpose. Another case is for gender-fluid people or people that consider themselves as a “they.”

At this point, it’s more a choice of respect for that individual, but this is probably the least common instance of using “they” for a single person.

He or She – She or He

Normally, the grammatically correct way to refer to someone whose gender is yet to be revealed is by saying “he or she/she or he.”

Habit:

-“I met with my new doctor yesterday.”

-“Really? Were they nice to you?”

More correct:

-“I met with my new doctor yesterday.”

-“Really? Was he or she nice to you?”

Other Forms

The same goes for the object position where it changes to “them.”

Habit:

  • “What about your cousin? Are you going to the festival with them?”

More correct:

  • “What about your cousin? Are you going to the festival with her or him?”

I’m sure this might sound really weird if you’re learning, but that’s what lots of English speakers do. It doesn’t quite look correct on paper, but this is a very common habit.

We also do the same for possessive cases, using “their.”

Habit:

  • “One of my classmates left their bag in the lunch yard.”

More correct:

  • “One of my classmates left his or her bag in the lunch yard.”

Using the Right Pronoun

Again, this is normally used when we don’t know the gender of the person or if we intentionally want to hide it. When we do know the person’s gender, then we use whatever the correct pronoun is.

Incorrect (assuming John is a male):

  • “What about your cousin, John? Are they taking you to the festival?”

Correct:

  • “What about your cousin, John? Is he taking you to the festival?”

Even though saying “his or her/her or his” is more grammatically correct, it sounds unusual or very formal to many English speakers, especially in a casual setting. It might be preferred in more formal settings though, like on the news, in business meetings, or in formal papers and articles. Otherwise, it’s completely normal to do this, even if grammar teachers won’t like it.

I wrote the examples as Habit and More Correct because saying “they/them” in this way is so common in English that it’s almost an accepted rule despite being technically incorrect. If you’re talking casually, I would urge you to use this form instead of “he or she/she or he” because it sounds very formal. It may be the better option for formal settings though, so keep that in mind. Don’t worry too much about it though. If you’re learning English, no one should hold it against you if you use one or the other.

Other Examples

  • “We hired a new employee at the company, but I still haven’t met them.” (gender is unknown)
  • “Your friend bought you flowers? They sound like such a sweet person!” (gender is unknown or is irrelevant)
  • “My son got a new principal at his school, but I still don’t know their name. They don’t start until Thursday though.” (gender is unknown)
  • — “My cousin started their new job yesterday.” — “Really? Is your cousin a he or a she?” — “Does it matter?” (gender is intentionally hidden)
  • “Dannika is my gender-fluid friend, remember? They’re a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” (the person in reference is gender-fluid, identifies as “they”)

**Thank you for reading and wanting to learn these fun English habits! If you want to read more on this subject, check out this article on APA Style. Read about other English-speaker habits on the Blog. As always, take care and keep up your studies! They will certainly pay off. Peace.

Asking Questions with or without ‘Do’ & ‘To be’? – English Habits

There is a habit that many people have and, maybe, don’t know it. In casual speech, many English speakers tend not to form questions properly. This can happen on purpose so that the speaker can make themselves not sound too formal. Sometimes though, it can be an accident. Well, I’m not here to say whether it is right or wrong but just to show you English learners what’s happening when you hear this. To refresh your memory on the right way to ask questions, you can read this page. Read about other English speaker habits on the Blog. Following are two habits with asking questions that English speakers have:

Questions without “Do”

One of the most noticeable question-related habits is with the verb, to “do.” This little word is confusing for many non-English speakers, but it helps us understand that what we are saying is a question. In other words, it’s an “auxiliary.” With that said, “do” gets left out of a lot of questions in regular conversation.

  • “What you want from me?”

Correct is: What do you want from me?

You can see that “do” just gets dropped out. This also happens in questions that don’t have question words (AKA What, Where, Who, etc.)

  • “You have a dollar I can borrow?”

Correct is: Do you have a dollar I can borrow?

If you speak a language like Spanish, then you do this regularly anyway. “Do” just lets us know that we’re forming a question without having to change our tone of voice to sound more “questiony.”

Questions without “To be”

Another habit people have when forming questions is leaving out the verb “to be” where it should be.

  • “What you doing this weekend?”

Correct is: What are you doing this weekend?

Just like with “do” before, the version of “to be” (are) gets completely dropped. This habit is more common in longer questions. It would usually sound weird in a short question with only a few words.

  • “Who you?” This sounds weird. It’s better to say, Who are you?

Doing this with questions that describe an action is more common in general casual English. Doing it in questions where the main verb is “to be” sounds somewhat uneducated and very improper. In “What are you doing?”, doing is the main verb because that’s the main action. In the question “Who are you?”, are is the main verb because, well, it’s the only verb.

  • “What your name?” This sounds very improper. It’s better to say, What‘s your name?

Remember, people do this without really thinking about it. It’s more for you to understand what’s happening as opposed to trying to memorize this feature. This habit also can happen in questions without question words, of course.

  • “That going to be a problem?”

Correct is: Is that going to be a problem?

A Note …

These are pretty common habits for many English speakers, though not all. It can depend on region or accent, and some habits are more common with certain accents than others. Because these habits are widely practiced, many people don’t even notice them in casual speech. But beware; sometimes dropping the “do” or “to be” can sound very improper, incorrect, and make the speaker sound sloppy or uneducated. Listen to other English speakers and pay attention to how people react to the things they say. This is a good way to tell if that habit is acceptable or not in X situation.

More Examples

Without “do”:

“What __ you think about the new mayor?”

“__ They know they’re being watched?”

“__ He just say that?”

Without “to be”:

“__ You some kind of genius or something?”

“What __ we doing here, anyway?”

“__ That a threat?”

**Hey again! Thanks for reading and learning more, my wonderful reader. Continue to be encouraged in your learning journey. You can do it! And share with us anything that’s on your mind to share about this topic, if you can. Talk soon…

Featured image credit: by Emily Morter on Unsplash