It definitely seems strange in writing. All of the following make sense:

who would have

who'd have

who would've

But what about this?


  • 3
    Also, consider "Surely, he can't've left yet." Sounds fine, looks funny. Is it correct? Well, it's okay with me. – Greg Lee Apr 8 '15 at 21:09
  • Looks fine to me. It's a good way of representing the way we say it. – David Garner Apr 8 '15 at 21:09
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    I wouldn't recommend it for formal writing, but it would be a perfectly acceptable representation of informal pronunciation. – ScotM Apr 8 '15 at 21:18
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    It is fine... And please do not spell it "who'd of"! – GEdgar Apr 8 '15 at 21:46
  • What is this "correct" of which you speak? – David Richerby Apr 9 '15 at 11:00

Written English is different from spoken English. If "who'd've" is part of a direct quote or you're trying to reproduce colloquial speech, it fine.

However, in almost all other cases, the reader will stumble around with all those apostrophes. Our brains don't read words the same way we hear them. Your three options of "who would have," "who'd have," and "who would've" are all good options for print. "Who would have" is more formal and good for texts that do not use contractions. If contractions are used in the text, then "who'd have" and "who would've" can be used interchangeably without issue.

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    There's also who'da, who'd of, and whowoulda, depending on how youd pronounce it. – John Lawler Apr 8 '15 at 21:47
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    Oh, @JohnLawler, now we're getting into some really dicey territory. I believe you are teasing me, but I'll play. I'd contend that "who'd've" is a correct written translation of a spoken \ˈhüd əv\ or \ˈhüd ə\. – SpringKS Apr 8 '15 at 22:26
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    And, I just learned my first lesson in posting a comment. Who'd a thought occur to that hitting enter would post a comment instead of making a return? Most people, I'd imagine, though not me. Who'd of this group be able to tell that this is my first post in this forum? – SpringKS Apr 8 '15 at 22:34

SpringKS pretty much covers it in her answer, yet I would like to build on her answer with a few numbers to help get a very rough idea of the relative popularity of some of the proposed ways of spelling who would have.

First off you should take a look at Google's Ngram Viewer, which gathers it's data from books. This graph shows who would have as the clear winner. This is completely expected as books tend to be quite formal.

The internet tends to be a little less formal, so by searching for some of these phrases with quotes we get the following number of results returned:

  • Who would have - 134,000,000 results
  • Who would've - 9,340,000 results
  • Who'd have - 6,210,000 results
  • Who'da - 511,000 results
  • Who'd've - 68,800 results
  • Who'd 'ave - 11,000 results
  • Whowoulda - 3,840 results

Even in a slightly more informal setting you can still see the majority of people taking the precious extra few seconds to type out the entire thing. Who would've and who'd have seem to be reasonably close. Who'da also seems to be more common than who'd've. As mentioned earlier however there is nothing wrong with any of these options in the right context. They will all get the meaning across.

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    I suspect that your observation, that people type out the words in full, isn't a matter of a majority of people trying to take precious extra few seconds to be more formal, by typing out the whole entire thing. Rather, I suspect that many people are simply trying to avoid the apostrophe, because they don't type that character as often, and so they feel like "muscle memory" will just naturally lead them to type " have" faster than 've. If we ignore the complication of the word "who", then "would have" gets 1.46 billion hits, but "would've" only 877 million. – TOOGAM Apr 9 '15 at 6:20
  • @TOOGAM That is quite a plausible interpretation. My comment on the 'few extra seconds' was meant to be a bit of an exaggeration but I suppose that the skill level of the typist and how often they practice using the apostrophe key would determine which phrase is quicker to type. – scribblemaniac Apr 9 '15 at 22:39

It really depends on who you are talking to. It is slang of a sort so if you are trying to impress someone I would not say it. For common speech it is fine.

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