Every spell check / auto fill I come across does not recognize this word. However, in speech I find it used quite often as in

How've you been? (How have you been?)

So is this an accepted contraction or not?

What about these:

Where've (you been?) What've (you been up to?) Who've (you been talking to?)

  • 2
    Yes, they're words. They can't be broken up and they move as a unit, so they're words. Words that are formed from contracting other words; these are called "canonical contractions", since there is a more or less standard way of spelling them. Unlike, for instance, "useda, useta, useto,_ or other ways of representing what we spell as used to but can't get write in the past tense (I didn't used to like that). Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 21:47
  • It's definitely a "word" used in ordinary conversation by literate speakers. Exactly how to spell it I've never considered before, but how've seems about right.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 21:47
  • @JohnLawler Before commenting myself I was trying to see if they could be moved. I can't make that work. Can you give an example? Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 12:39
  • I admit I didn't check it with wh-have contractions; I was thinking of aux-neg contractions that move as a unit. OK, so that's a prediction of the theory then, not an observed datum. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 14:45
  • @JohnLawler They can't be broken up? How on earth’ve you come to that conclusion? (Okay, not the most natural example in the world; but “how the hell’ve you been” is every bit as normal to me as “how’ve you been”.) Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


MS Word 2010 seems to recognize "How've" as in "How've you been?" while Firefox tries to correct it to "Who've."

Google ngram viewer shows these in reasonably common usage, especially in more recent decades, but not nearly as often as their uncontracted counterparts (which makes sense for books).

These seem to be in line with "would've," an explicit example in the Chicago Manual of Style (as a word).

Finally, remember the most important consideration is whether or not the intended meaning behind your communication will be clear in the context you're communicating. In most cases, the intended meaning of these contractions will be clear.


I think that the term "how've" should be recognized as a word by google docs and other sites as it is a nuisance dealing with the red line indicating that it's not a word. Why do the words when, where, why and what get to have the word "have" connected to them as a contraction but how've does not. Why doth the words with "wh" at the start of them get special treatment whereas the word "how" doth not. "How've" has every right and reasonable reason to be a conjunction and in the dictionary. I rest my case.

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