"What would have been your chances?" vs "What would your chances have been?"

Which one is grammatically correct and why?

  • Chances are that you should be asking questions like this on English Language Learners, after providing a complete example of the sentence in which you wish to use one of these constructions.
    – David
    Jun 8, 2020 at 20:14
  • They are both complete sentences, aren't they? Jun 8, 2020 at 20:24
  • Ok, but they need a sentence with the context so one can assess whether the tense is correct. Is it “if you had bet on…”? But, in any case, there is no grammatical difference between the two options, they just differ in word order in a way any native speaker would realize is a matter of stylistic taste. I repeat, ELL is the place for this sort of thing, and there is no shame in that.
    – David
    Jun 8, 2020 at 20:53
  • @David It's not that obvious an analysis here. Note that 'Where would the bathroom have been?' is mandatory, ?/*'Where would have been the bathroom?' being unacceptable. And *'Where would have been you?' is outlandish. As is *'What would have been John if he hadn't gone into teaching?' // 'What would have been your chances ...' is in a rather literary style, and idiomatic although not all such structures are. Jul 8, 2020 at 14:24
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1 Answer 1


Some general recommendations in English prose syntax are to avoid separating a subject from its predicate, and to avoid interposing adverbs, objects, or other words into a predicate with multiple parts. Your predicate is "would have been", which we'd want to keep together whenever possible. Of course, as with all such "rules", writers can choose to except them with cause. As far as meaning, I don't see much difference.

  • So what about "Where have you been?" ? Are you saying we should say instead "Where have been you?" ? Jun 8, 2020 at 14:55
  • As I said, it's a general syntactical guideline ("general recommendations"), to discourage students writing sentences where the predicate, as in this interjection right now right here, is separated from it's predicate ("predicate"#1=subject, "is separated"=predicate) by too much interrupting information. There are exceptions (and, as far as grammatical rules go, English has more exceptions than any other language that I'm familiar with).
    – dmms
    Jul 18, 2020 at 21:30
  • The example sentence is a question. It's normal in English, usually mandatory, to use subject auxiliary inversion. In other words it's normal for the first verb in the predicate to appear before the subject. The first verb is therefore usually separated from the rest of the predicate by said subject: "What did she say?". Nobody recommends keeping the auxiliary together with the rest of the predicate in questions (apart from subject questions). Nov 15, 2020 at 1:32

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