As part of a feedback form, I came across this today:

What could have we done better in the service to get a 9/10 for you?

The "could have we" intuitively sounds wrong to me - I feel it should be "could we have" - but a quick google search brings up a number of examples of this usage.

Is this an American thing?

  • Could you post some of those Google links? I didn't spot anything. I'm with you, I've never heard that. It is not an American thing. It almost sounds like a form designed by someone who was not a native speaker of English.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 17, 2017 at 8:11
  • I've never read "could have we" in anything other than mistaken usage. As @fixer1234 says it sounds like the writer was not a native English speaker.
    – Mike C
    Mar 17, 2017 at 8:51
  • I agree. The BNC has only one use of 'could have we', and it's in speech, where they're correcting themselves. Mar 17, 2017 at 9:08
  • In speech, What could've we done is unexceptional; I chalk this up to bad editing.
    – choster
    Mar 17, 2017 at 14:55
  • Easy way to check yourself: "We have done X" versus "Have we done X". The second is grammatically incorrect (when it's not posed as question). The same logic extends to your sentence. Mar 17, 2017 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


Just doing a Google search is unreliable. To check your intuition against expert or competent writers, try using Google Ngrams.

Only "could we have done" is found in all of Google Books. ("what" had to be dropped because it made the search term too long)

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