I've seen a contraction of two words. I can't see why it wouldn't've been possible to have been contracted twice. Is it possible and how should it be punctuated?

Update: Ok, to sum up the answers so far

  • This appears in spoken British and American English
  • It is from one of the lower registers of English
  • Even if spoken this way sometimes, it isn't really written as a double contraction, except as written speech in fiction.
  • And from my own googling in Wiktionary, it appears most written forms are old British words, often nautical like fo'c'sle.
  • 8
    Are their grammarians in fo'c'sles? Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 4:58
  • 2
    It's fo'c's'le, though the apostrophe after the s is sometimes omitted. Forecastle.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 4:13
  • 2
    @Jared Updike: Whose grammarians? Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 11:45
  • 4
    @Piskvor: ha ha... apparently not me! It was meant to be a pun on 'Are there atheists in foxholes?' Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 19:38
  • The answers seem low quality... I'm new here, please tell me: do the answer always defer to my high school English teacher?
    – Joe Coder
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 6:23

13 Answers 13


This is not the highest register, but you may hear it in speech. Native speakers tend to slur words together and leave out sounds even if they wouldn't write that way.

Double contractions are not used in writing. They may be grammatically correct, but a professor would not allow you to use them in an essay. Typically, even single contractions are avoided in formal writing.

  • 14
    Why is this grammatically incorrect? I + have = I've, and have + not = haven't, so why is I'ven't strictly incorrect? Who wrote we can't doubly contract? Is it principally "I'ven't" doesn't feel right to you? If so, then it's not incorrect. This flexibility is what makes the English language so powerful. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:24
  • 4
    @David, that is also what makes it one of the hardest languages to learn. At least it isn't tonal! Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:32
  • 3
    My two sources of what is "right" in English are dictionaries and professors/teachers. You won't find "I'ven't" in the Oxford dictionary, and it's very unlikely that a professor would let that slide in an essay.
    – mouche
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:35
  • 4
    It might be impossible to find such a piece, but that doesn't change the fact that every English teacher I've ever had told everyone that using contractions in formal writing was Very Very Bad. The words were also underlined.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 0:57
  • 19
    Perhaps I shouldn't've said anything. Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 8:01

Two of my favorite double contractions are "couldn't've" and "shouldn't've", both of which are flagged by my spell checker, but seem completely correct to me.

  • 10
    What about when you get something like "y'all'dn't've" O_o (You all would not have) Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 22:37
  • 19
    Then you have achieved an admirable level of efficiency. ;)
    – mskfisher
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 23:41
  • 1
    I use shouldn't've a lot, I have to say - in informal typed conversation. That is how we say it colloquially in London, as in "Ya shouldn't've done that mate."
    – Orbling
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 17:29
  • 1
    What about I'm'nt (I'm not) same idea, but it sounds completely wrong to me.
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 16:23
  • 1
    Wiktionary lists couldn’t’ve, but flags it as nonstandard. Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 16:29

The example you give is not done in American English. You can't contract non-auxiliary "have". "I've not a clue if this is possible" is also not grammatical in American English. It may be in British English, though.

I copied this from a comment I left below, because I think it clarifies what I'm trying to say:

I've" is a fine contraction, just in American English you can only use it to replace "I have" when "have" is used as an auxiliary verb (e.g. in conjunction with a past participle). "I've been there" is OK. "I've a dog" is not. In the example "I'ven't a clue"—"I haven't a clue", the verb "have" is not auxiliary, so it can't be contracted with the pronoun "I".

  • No one's called me on saying "I've not" or "I'ven't" yet...
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:08
  • 2
    @kitukwfyer if you do that, you should know that you risk it coming off at best as a pseudo-British affectation and at worst as simple misuse.
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:12
  • 1
    I think it's generally because I talk too quickly and mumble a lot. :)
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:14
  • @nohat, I've never heard that before! I've is a common contraction (more often a common "leave out". "I got to go" instead of "I've got to go") Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 21:35
  • 4
    "I've not a clue" is OK in British English, but tends to be limited to (a) certain regions, or (b) the past. To me as a Londoner, it sounds very old-fashioned, but it may be appropriate to use if you're from elsewhere in the UK. Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:17

"Fish 'n' chips" and similar phrases with "'n'" technically have a double-contracted "and."

  • 1
    "rock'n'roll" has a double contraction too. The difference with what asked from the OP is that the double contraction is not done on a verb.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 19:09
  • 3
    Personally I wouldn't call that a double contraction, because you rarely, if ever, have the single contraction form (i.e. 'nd or an'). Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 10:44
  • I'd say that in Australian English (at least my Adelaide version) we sometimes say Fish 'nd Chips and Rock 'nd Roll, but I doubt any one would normally type the d.
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 9:55

I don't think you can get away with "I'ven't" in writing either. However, I think I've read "'tweren't," "'twouldn't," and "'twasn't" before. I'm guessing, though, that double contractions like that are never technically correct. Colloquially speaking, if you're understandable, anything goes.

  • 2
    Those sort of contractions starting with T (either by front contraction of it or rear contraction of the) are very common in Northern England, particularly the Yorkshire area. You can get quite pantomine with: "'twas", "'twasn't".
    – Orbling
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 17:14
  • 1
    "Not technically correct"? Nonsense!
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 1:39
  • What is 'tweren't short for?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 13:46
  • T'aint funny, McGee!
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 15:23
  • @Pacerier "It were not." For example, "If 'tweren't so, I should've told you." As you may know, this is the subjunctive mood; see also here. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 19:49

I guess this isn't entirely formal standard English, but I'm pretty sure "y'all're," "y'all've," and "y'all'll" are accepted in areas that use "y'all" as the second person plural.

  • 7
    "If y'all'd started when I told you to, y'all'ld've already been done by now!" - No, I'm not making that up. I've never seen it written before, but I've heard (and said) things like it my whole life. Commented Aug 12, 2010 at 21:19

I wouldn't use I'ven't in speech or writing. I've not perhaps, I haven't more likely. I do use, in both speech and writing, I'd've. I'd've thought this would be more common.


I would avoid doing that in any serious writing, but if you are looking for ways to do this creatively to affect a regional dialect, etc. I would suspect any text by Mark Twain would be a good source to find examples of this.

  • So... any writing that has quotation marks is fair game. ^_^
    – OneProton
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 19:13

See: 19th-century English: wo'n't and ca'n't


When you say "I've done it" it's pronounced something like [aiv donit] (with the stress on [ai]), but when you say "I haven't done it" it's pronounced something like [ai (h)avent donit] (with or without an h sound, with the stress on [av]). Since the initial "h" is very weak in English anyway it's superfluous to omit it with an apostrophe unless you're making a point about exactly how someone pronounced it.

If you're saying [ai hav donit] (with stress on [hav]), you should write it "I have done it", with or without the italics depending on how important the emphasis is.

(By the way, I'm not a native speaker, this is how I see it with my foreign eyes. I'm sure the phonetic spelling is all messed up, but I hope you understand it anyway...)


Nobody seems to have mentioned it, but what you'd be more likely to hear in British English is "I 'aven't".

As Steve Melnikoff commented, "I've not" is sometimes used in the UK, though his example reads strangely to me; I'd have suggested something like "I've not seen him before".

  • +1 'aven't is common, though ain't is used more.
    – Orbling
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 17:18

See also Apostrophes in contractions: shan't, sha'n't or sha'nt?.

I was looking into the example of sha'n't because I just ran across that spelling in Henry James's short story, "The Great Condition" (1900), where characters named Bertram Braddle and Henry Chilver converse as follows:

"A-ah!" Chilver murmered, as if only only now with a full view. "She means she'll speak when you are married."

"When we are. And then only on one great condition."

"How great?"

"Well, that if after six months I still want it very much. She argues, you know, that I sha'n't want it."

"You won't then—you won't!"cried Chilver with a laugh at the odd word and passing his arm into his friend's to make him walk again.

There are several striking things about this occurrence of sha'n't. First, in the many stories that James wrote between 1892 and 1900, the spelling with two apostrophes occurs only this once (I believe). Notably, James doesn't spell won't with two apostrophes one line later—and more to the point, he spelled shan't with one apostrophe earlier in the same story:

"Shan't I go with you to the station?" his companion [Chilver] asked.

And finally, Chilver is particularly struck by "the odd word," though he himself used shan't earlier. This suggests that James is using the double punctuation to indicate an unusual pronunciation of the word sha'n't (perhaps as two syllables: sha-ent?), much as he uses a hyphen to indicate an unusual pronunciation or drawing out of "A-ah!" at the beginning of the quoted dialogue.

In any event, it's clear that writers can and do sometimes use two apostrophes in a single contraction, just as they can and sometimes do compress multiple words into one (as in the case of whadya for "what do you") without using any punctuation to clarify what's going on.


Not sure if it counts, but o'clock is a contraction of "of the clock".

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