Could Have and Would Have

By Maeve Maddox

Rita Levin asks:

Can you please explain the difference between could had/could have and would had/would have.

To begin with, the combinations “could had” and “would had” are impossibilities in standard English.

It was with great dismay that I found the following utterances (and many more like them) on the web:

If I had been killed she would had to carry a dark burden of remorse

If Greece and Greeks would had been converted to islam… would Greece had the problems of debt currently?

Encore could had been a masterpiece

If you could had $100 GC at Amazon, which cans for Rock music would you get?

The combination could have is always followed by a past participle. NOTE: This discussion is limited to the use of have and had with could and would.

Here are some uses of could have and would have.

Someone was capable of doing something, but out of choice or necessity, was unable to do so:

I could have been a contender.

If I could have seen the stage, I would have told you who was playing.

Something unfortunate was a possible outcome of some act:

You could have killed us all, driving like that.

The speaker is being critical:

You could have opened the door when you saw what I was carrying.

The speaker is speculating:

Why isn’t he here yet? He could have been caught in traffic.

How did she find out? James could have told her.

Note: could can be used to express speculation without the use of have:
He could be stuck in traffic. Those strange neighbors could be space aliens.

The phrase would have is also followed by the past participle form of the verb. It is used in the main clause of a sentence that contains an if clause:

If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.

If they had been thinking straight, they would not have gone to the party.

I would have reached my destination earlier if I hadn’t lost my way.

Here are the incorrect examples rewritten:

If I had been killed, she would have had to carry a dark burden of remorse

If Greece and the Greeks had been converted to Islam…would Greece have the current problems of debt?

Encore could have been a masterpiece

If you could have $100 GC at Amazon…

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6 Responses to “Could Have and Would Have”

  • Peter

    The combination could have is always followed by a past participle.

    Is a past participle anything like a pizza?..because I could have a pizza for lunch, if I wanted 🙂

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

  • Vincent

    This is something really informative. Although I had knowledge of the topic but still to revive the memory is of great help 🙂

  • Maeve

    When will I EVER learn to avoid that word “always”?! I meant when “have” is being used as a helping verb, not when it’s the main verb, as in “I could have a pizza.”

  • Cecily

    @Maeve: You could have another go at writing the blog post! 😉

  • Vivek Khambete

    Would have / Could have is used when you have not done the thing but you might have done the same example : Ram wanted money but we could not meet that day next day he told about the same and he took it from Shyam.You can say – If you had informed me i could have given it .

  • Mahendra

    this article is very helpful to increase my knowledge to use would adn could. Thanx!!

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