What are the grammatical and semantic roles plays the particle "of" in the next sentence?

You had to of seen it before

Source: Conversation with an Aussie


I suspect that you've misheard your Aussie conversation partner. In particular, they're almost certainly contracting

You had to have seen it before.

And (by not stressing have) turning it into

You had to've seen it before.

What makes this confusing is that 've (i.e. unstressed have) is pronounced just like of. In fact, it's a frequent enough source of confusion (often in phrases like "could of" instead of "could've") that Oxford Dictionaries has a page dedicated to it. They consider it an error, and I'd agree, though — because it's fairly common — you're likely to come across it in the wild.

  • No, I haven't misheard her. I have written it down and she checked it. – Dirty Hippy Jul 27 '17 at 9:12
  • @Dirty Hippy Hmm... That's interesting. It doesn't change my answer, though. It may very well be that it's a particular characteristic of her dialect, but it is not standard Australian English (or any other kind of English I'm aware of), and authoritative Australian style guides list it as an error. It's a common mistake, but it's a mistake nonetheless (at least for now). The word should be "have". – Tutleman Jul 27 '17 at 11:57

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