Should have gone? or Should have went? ~ 5 Minute Grammar Lesson

I haven’t written a 5 Minute Grammar post in a long time…and it’s high time for a new one!

Should have gone or Should have went

I’m not sure if my topic today is an Iowa-ism, or a common problem, but I hear it so often here in Iowa, it grates on me. Even my own dear hubs gets this one wrong, which is confusing to me. I don’t remember him saying this before we moved to Iowa in 2006 – but as often as I hear it now – and as many times as I have “gently” (and not so gently) corrected him – it must be normal to him or he would fix it. 🙁

Should have gone or Should have went?

Which is right?

I should have gone to the store.


I should have went to store.

If you chose #2, you’re WRONG!  If you chose #1, you’re RIGHT!


If you got it right, pat yourself on the shoulder (or your back if you can reach it…)! 🙂

The nitty gritty for this particular grammar rule involves irregular verbs and past participles. If you really care, read this.

Otherwise, please trust me. I teach College Composition. I have a Master’s Degree in English. Never, ever, ever, ever say “I SHOULD HAVE WENT.”  Or, for that matter, never put have and went together in any construction. Have and Went never go next to each other in educated English.

And that’s your 5 Minute Grammar Lesson! Enjoy!

More grammar posts you may like:

Your welcome or You’re welcome?

How to make the word PEOPLE possessive

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Less or Fewer?

If you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Grammarly – Instantly fix over 250 types of errors with this free web-based grammar checker!

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

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  1. Tell us how you really feel. 🙂

    I get to pat myself on the back. The “should have went” didn’t look right or sound right. I enjoy your little lessons. It’s been forever since I was in school and grammar was not my strongest subject. I imagine I will need to re-learn anyway.

      • I just heard ‘should have went’ on a tv show. I’m shocked that people have a 50 50 chance of getting this one correct and seem to always get it wrong. It’s a pet peeve and my cousin and I continue to fight for proper grammar with our family. Especially my 9 year old granddaughter. I think we can win:) it’s not just Iowa. I’m from Ontario and it’s rampant. Thanks for trying!!

  2. I got it right 🙂 I understand how these incorrect phrases can bother a person 😉 In Beeville a lot of people used to say, “get off the car” or “get on the car” instead of in or out of the car…drove me nuts!

  3. Yipee! Patting myself on the back. Whew! Thanks goodness, since I homeschool my DD! Tee Hee! 😉 Now, I do have to say I have been known to use incorrect grammar. I was always more of a math/science girl.

  4. I knew I was right! Iowa-born and educated even(!), but just saw comments from my son’s former middle school ENGLISH teacher (of all things) here in Tennessee where she wrote, “I should have went…” and I thought, “huh???” Had to google it myself and found your blog. Maybe it is the way they are teaching kids all over the country these days, b/c I sure learned the correct usage and IN Iowa! 😉

  5. Would you please explain to me what is wrong with the following sentence?

    “What if they hadn’t went ahead with the fake traffic study?”

    I was told that the correct form is this:

    What if they hadn’t gone ahead with the fake traffic study”?

    Doesn’t “hadn’t” (had not) allow for went and/or gone? Can’t it be either of the two in this case?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Philip, actually they both do NOT work and gone is the right choice in your example too. You can’t say “had went” in any context, in the affirmative or negative. Ever. You need the past perfect here, not the simple past. Went means the action of going is finished. You can never use ‘went’ after have, had, has, or is. Gone must be used with those words (or a form of the verb ‘be’).

  6. Thank you! This infraction is one of my biggest grammar pet peeves. I just read it in news article. I also heard a first grade teacher saying it incorrectly. It was all I could do to not correct her.

  7. Which one is phrased properly:
    “yesterday couldn’t have went any better” or “yesterday couldn’t have gone any better.”
    Or how can I rephrase the sentence to make it sound better?

    • Hi Riley,
      The second one is phrased correctly: Yesterday couldn’t have gone any better. It doesn’t matter if you add other words better have and gone – the answer is still the same. Could NOT HAVE GONE. 🙂 Michelle

  8. I think proper grammar is important. Sometimes in an informal speaking situation it is not always used. Does not bother me. I always think proper manners should always trump proper English. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER NEVER interrupt an adult in the middle of a sentence to correct their English. That is just rude.

  9. I just heard a news reporter say “if you notice is has went down” on her report!!!! OMG! I had to Google to make sure that I am right and she said that wrong. I hear so many younger people saying this and it makes me wonder if they aren’t teaching it correctly in school now. Poor grammar really grates on my nerves but, I just bite my tongue because I think it sounds superior and bitchy to correct people. But it is SO hard not to say anything. I DO correct my husband or sons if they use poor grammar but they rarely do because I drilled it into them over the years.

  10. Omg…I can’t stand the gone/went mixup. My husband also struggles with present and past tense…i.e.. seen/saw. I really try very hard not to correct but at times it just comes out. I am a teacher and perhaps I am aware of it more than others? Yikes!

  11. But perhaps this is a usage that may become regular over time? Obviously your readers feel strong about it but the English language changes and does not remain the same. Ex double negatives used to be accepted.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I couldn’t remember the explanation of past participles and all being that I’ve been out of school for ages but EVERYONE I work with (professionals, mind you) use the wrong sentencing structure all the time! They will say things like “I should have went”. ARGH! I can’t tell you how much this grates on my nerves especially since these are otherwise intelligent people. It’s so commonplace around here that I catch myself doing it from time to time. I don’t want to talk this way! It’s so frustrating. I don’t want to be the asshole and tell them the correct way to speak but I don’t want to lose my decent grammar skills due to constant exposure to bad grammar!


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