"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

Source: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

This is an quote from the story "A good man is hard to find" by Flannery O'Connor. Is here "she would of been" a non-standard equivalent of "she would have been"? – And what about the construction "if it had been somebody there…" Is it grammatically OK or is it the expression of O'Connor's play with language?

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    You are certainly correct about the first half: "would of" is a spoken corruption of "would have." However, I haven't read the story, so it's hard to know what the the second part of the quote means. I assume it's a Southern American dialect expression (based on O'Connor's preferred setting for stories) meaning "if somebody had been there to..." but I'm really not sure.
    – apsillers
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:12
  • Here's how the first mistake comes to be: "Would have" --> "Would've" --> "Would of" A good explanation of this particular quotation can be found at Spark Notes. It's the second quotation on the page. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:32
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    She was a great short-story writer whose stories are set in the US South; "if it had been somebody there" is a rural southernism for "if somebody had been there".
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:37
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    Many highly regarded authors, and not just those using Southern American English (eg John Dos Passos), use "would of" and "could of" to represent the colloquial speech of their characters. Nowadays, many people write would of instead of would've because their language skills do not seem to include the standard contracted form (would've).
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:38
  • @δοῦλος: More to the point, a surprisingly large number of people explicitly articulate "I would OV said this properly, but I don't understand basic English grammar". Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


This is O'Connor playing with language, representing either the Misfit's incorrect use of grammar or the way his speech sounds. The correct locutions are "would have been" and "if there had been."

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