This lesson is Part 4 in the series on Pronouncing Verb Contractions in English:
- Part 1: Intro to Verb Contractions and their Pronunciations
- Part 2: Would + have = “would’ve”
- Part 3: Would + not + have = “wouldn’t have”
- Part 4: Could + have = “could’ve”
- Part 5: May + have = [meyəv]
- Part 6: Must + have = “must’ve”
- Part 7: Must + not = “mustn’t” | COMING SOON
- Part 8: I + will = “I’ll” [aiyəl] | COMING SOON
- Part 9: He/She/We + will | COMING SOON
- Part 10: It + will = “it’ll” [ɪdəl] | COMING SOON
- Part 11: They + will = “they’ll” | COMING SOON
Listen to the audio while reading the lesson:
(Sorry if the sound quality is not as good as usual. I’m on vacation, and I don’t have my good microphone with me! 🙂 xo -L)
Could + have | Past Possibility
The verb “could” is used with “have” and the past participle of a main verb to express something that was possible in the past, but wasn’t done or didn’t happen.
To form a sentence with “could” to talk about a past possibility:
could + have + past participle of main verb
- “I could’ve eaten another slice of pizza, but I’m trying to lose weight.”
Here, the speaker still had room and the desire for more food, but she didn’t eat the pizza in the past so that she can lose weight [in the present].
Notice that I said “could’ve” instead of “could have”.
As the previous lessons on contracted verbs have already shown you, the music of English comes from the way native English speakers:
- stress their content words (meaning, they say them longer, louder, and higher in pitch); as well as
- de-stress their function words (meaning they say them quicker and more relaxed).
Function words in English are those that form the grammar and structure of a sentence and do not carry much content. These include auxiliary verbs, which accompany a main verb and add some grammatical meaning to the sentence. Because “have” is an auxiliary verb, we tend to de-stress it and contract it, then attach it to the verb preceding it.
So, to contract “have”, simply:
- delete the first consonant sound [h];
- de-stress and relax the vowel sound ([æ] –> [ə]); and
- connect it to the verb before it.
“Have” –> [əv]
Could + have = “could’ve” [Kʊ dəv]
Did you hear how much more relaxed the vowel sound in “have” is?
- “could’ve” [Kʊ dəv]
Remember that because “have” now begins with a vowel sound, you should connect your speech and pronounce the [d] in “could” at the beginning of “‘ve” [əv] –> [dəv].
- “could’ve” [Wʊ dəv]
[k] vs. [g]
Notice that the [k] sound in “could” is a voiceless sound, and I am not saying the voiced [g]. This means there is no vibration in my vocal chords when I say [k] in “could’ve”.
Now, let’s put it all together and practice.
Listen and Repeat
- “We could’ve had a big wedding, but we decided to elope, just the two of us!”
- “I could’ve done better on my English test had I studied more.”
- “She could’ve dated any guy she wanted to, but she chose my brother.”
- “I could’ve earned so much more money if I had just worked a little harder!”
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