In England, particularly, the word have is often pronounced to sound like of, as in, “What would you of done?” or “I could of done something about it”. This is also how people will write it!
Actually, in that very English of ways, what people are really saying is, “I could ‘av done something about it”. They’ve dropped the h in have and it sounds like of.
It doesn’t take much investigating to reveal that of is the wrong word to be using given the context demonstrated above.
The dictionary definition of the word of is as follows:
of |ɒv, (ə)v| preposition
1 expressing the relationship between a part and a whole:
2 expressing the relationship between a scale or measure and a value:
3 expressing the relationship between a direction and a point of reference:
… among other things.
The word have is defined thus:
have |hav| verb
1 possess, own, or hold:
2 experience; undergo:
3 (**have to** or **have got to do something**) be obliged or find it necessary to do the specified thing:
Compare the two and the phrase “I could of done something about it” quite clearly makes no sense.
This is partly regional accents at work, partly laziness of speech and partly the speaker taking it for granted that the way they speak is the way things are spelled.
It is up to us writers to keep the English language alive and kicking against a rising tide of text language and emails written in a new form of shorthand.