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Are both acceptable? Or is only one correct?

He would never have said anything rude or insulting like that.

or

He would have never said anything rude or insulting like that.

  • The Ngram for 'would have never'/'would never have'/never would have' is overwhelmingly on the side of 'would never have'. English wants 'have' to be next to its verb, it seems. – Nigel J Jan 22 '18 at 23:51
  • @NigelJ Hmm. Or English 'wants' adverbs of frequency to come after the first auxiliary! [But which is more frequent has nothing to say with regard to which is more 'correct' – Araucaria Jan 23 '18 at 0:14
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    @Araucaria Accepted. I should have said 'English speakers frequently place' etc. rather than imply a requirement to do so. – Nigel J Jan 23 '18 at 0:36
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Both are acceptable, but the first sounds better to my ear, especially after expanding your example a little for the benefit of my own understanding/amusement.

Consider:

He would never have said anything rude or insulting like that had he known [your favorite scary thing] [was lurking/making a shovel out of impossible materials] [inside the kitchen cabinet/piggy bank]

He would have never said anything rude or insulting like that had he known [your favorite scary thing] [was lurking/making a shovel out of impossible materials] [inside the kitchen cabinet/piggy bank]

Or...

He never would have said anything rude or insulting like that had he known [your favorite scary thing] [was lurking/making a shovel out of impossible materials] [inside the kitchen cabinet/piggy bank]

Things break down a little if you put never first, though, because in that case the sentence structure has to follow the rules of a question;

Never would he have said anything rude or insulting like that had he known [your favorite scary thing] [was lurking/making a shovel out of impossible materials] [inside the kitchen cabinet/piggy bank]

Grammatically speaking the thing about never is that it's an adverb of frequency that can be used everywhere expect at the end of a sentence. ("Don't do that. Never Ever.") Other adverbs of frequency such as frequently can be used at the tail end of a sentence.

So to reiterate, I personally find both examples acceptable usage.

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Andrejs, in your sentence the word "never" is an adverb of frequency modifying the main verb "said" (no matter where the adverb appears). The words "would" and "have" are helping verbs. These phrasings are comparable in meaning and equally grammatical: "never would have said"; "would never have said"; "would have never said". I would choose the first phrasing, as to my ear it most stresses never (which seems to me the natural stress in the thought). FYI, your sentence isn't conditional, as no condition is established; rather, the sentence expresses a positive assertion using helping verbs. To be a conditional sentence, it would need a form similar to this: "If he had known of her recent cancer diagnosis, he never would have said anything rude or insulting." Lune

  • Thanks. Just noticed the sentence isn't conditional. Was probably thinking of another sentence in the background, which bothered my mind as well. – Andrejs Zavaruhins Feb 7 '18 at 17:12

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