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


1 Answer 1


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. Jul 27, 2017 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, 2017 at 11:57
  • @DirtyHippy Yes, I don't doubt you heard it correctly. A lot of Australians do say "of" and think it should be "of", but of course it is "have". A lot of Londoners say the same thing. And Cockney speech patterns are widely evident in Australia - from my experience of having lived there briefly.
    – WS2
    Sep 27, 2022 at 19:17

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