My formal training is as a linguist, not an English teacher, so I know that language is a fluid thing. What is considered incorrect can become correct through a critical mass of mainstream usage. But there are just certain “wrongs” that I’d hate to see gain enough traction to become “right”. 

 Are you guilty of using any of these? Do you think we should love ‘em (accept these transgressions and let them creep into our textbooks) or leaveem?


 The Double Woulda

If I would have known you were going to the market, I would have asked you to get me some pork rinds.

When talking about something that didn’t happen in the past, many people use the conditional perfect (if I would have known) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had known).

In the above example, your daughter finds out you went to the market, and says she would have asked for some pork rinds if she had known you were going. (I won’t even ask why you’re letting your kid eat pork rinds.)

The correct way to say this is with the past perfect in the “if” clause, and the conditional perfect in the “then” clause:

If I had known you were going to the market, I would have asked you to get me some pork rinds.

I think one reason people make this mistake is it feels satisfying to make the verb tense in each clause match: “If I would have ___, then I would have ___.”

Another reason is that all this stuff is happening in the conditional, in that gray area where things could, would or should happen—but don’t necessarily. So people often use what I affectionately refer to as “The Double Woulda” to convey that.

It makes a kind of sense, but it doesn’t make it correct. If you woulda studied your grammar in grade school, you woulda known that…


What do you think about The Double Woulda? Love it or leave it?