I've always wondered (and as a child caused quite a few frowns from my English teachers) working this out..

If we can abbreviate words like:

  • Would and Not to Wouldn't
  • Could and Have to Could've

What stops intertwining the two examples to:

  • Could and Not and Have to Couldn't've


Joe wasn't even there so he couldn't've been in that race.

I do apologise if this comes across as a really silly question…!



update I've seen a good post (which has a few posts leading off of it) (thanks rathony), but what I was more looking for was the correctness "grammatically speaking". (Both American English and British English sides would be interesting to hear). Although many seem to say that it goes down well in literature, loads have even thrown in a few of their own double-abbreviations in the comments (chuckle), but I can't seem to get a definitive "these are the do's and don'ts of abbreviations and grammatical (written, not spoken) correctness"

update **Another few posts which show some "vague" examples, but I see no blatant iteration of "double plurals". I've seen questions, I've seen examples but no definitive answer as to whether it's correct or not.. Both there Oxford Dictionary and Webster Dictionary make utterances of the double plurals, but there's no exact example...

****Wouldn't've been more logical to post links to something directly related? (sorry, had to be cheeky and post that!)

To outline my question "Is the use of double plurals correct or not". i.e if were to teach English Language (British or American) to students, how would I define this?

(Sorry, This has plagued me since I was a teen! -- even got sent to the head-master for being a Smart-Alec lol!)... So any direction would be helpful! (Both British or American English help)

  • Hi thanks for answering. I took a peek at that link (and the few off-shoots from there) and none seem to spell out if it's "correct or not".. There's quite a bit of ambiguity around it. (Indeed it does sound nice and rolls well off the tongue), but "grammatically speaking" is what I was after (I'll update the question and be more precise) sorry… First time I've posted on this particular SE site. – Adrian Sluyters Dec 19 '15 at 8:19
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    Your question does look better after the edit. Good luck! +1 :-) – user140086 Dec 19 '15 at 8:28
  • I've updated my question to hone it down to "written" rather than spoken. I do understand that most contractions are discouraged in any form of formal writing (well that it when it comes to the British Statute, then it's riddled with it!). At school, friends, family, my business partners, business colleagues etc… all discourage it, but I'm trying to work out where this discouragement came from and why in "grammatically correct English" (British English as I'm in the UK) hasn't encouraged nor discouraged it. It's a "shush shush no-no (taboo if you will). – Adrian Sluyters Dec 19 '15 at 8:30
  • As you said, some say that contractions do not belong in writing, but anyone who refuses to use them when speaking comes off sounding like a science fiction movie android. That being said, when a writers wans to write natural-sounding dialog, they do use contractions within quotes, and some of those contractions may be double, such as "wouldn't've." But my spell-check doesn't like that, and the reason is simply that the convention in the English language is to write contractions out, and if you read the book aloud, pronounce them as you normally would, using spoken contractions. – Steven Littman Dec 19 '15 at 11:07
  • +1, Nice question. However - you're confusing weak forms with contractions and abbreviations. Could've isn't a standard abbreviation for very good reasons. It isn't a contraction in speech. It's simply the word could followed by the weak form of the word have. It's easy to demonstrate this in the grammar. It's also easy to show therefore why couldn't've isn't a contraction either. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 19 '15 at 11:28