What is the exact meaning of "would have not been" and "would not have been" in English grammar? Do they mean same thing?

For example,

On this principle, if Mr. Lynch had decided to go on hunger strike, the police would not have been entitled to administer forcible feeding.

Across the nation are examples of incidents that were the incident not recorded, some police would have not been prosecuted for horrendous.

  • The second example is ungrammatical.
    – user230
    Sep 2, 2017 at 14:05
  • 1
    for horrendous crimes or offenses. They are both fine, otherwise.
    – Lambie
    Aug 25, 2021 at 17:09

4 Answers 4


"Would not have been" is the customary word order.

English, like other languages, uses changes of word order to emphasise particular topics in a sentence. Saying "Would have not been" sounds (to me) like it's being done for emphasis, but it's not clear what emphasis is meant!

My hunch is that it's putting emphasis on the thing not happening. Maybe it's something particularly bad, as in your example. The writer/speaker is trying to put the word "not" closer to the key point, the thing that people are going to get emotional about.

If Toby had driven more carefully, those people would have not been killed.

However, you could accomplish exactly the same thing by putting some extra stress on the word "not", while using the customary word order.

If Toby had driven more carefully, those people would not have been killed.


This is only from the perspective of American English, since I don't know other dialects, but I don't find "would have not been" easy to parse; I would describe it as borderline ungrammatical. To the extent that I parse it, it means the same as "would not have been," which is the normal and standard way to say this.

  • I agree with @hunter here. Also an Am.E. native speaker.
    – Doc
    Jan 14, 2014 at 21:55

Let's try the contracted form and figure out if stressing makes sense:

"It wouldn't have happened!" "It would haven't happened!"

What do you think?

  • 2
    Are you asking a rhetorical question or a non-rhetorical one? (If it's the latter, I'd suggest posting it as a new question.) May 14, 2016 at 7:17
  • Isn't "It would've not happened" a much more natural contraction to use for the second option?
    – nnnnnn
    May 14, 2016 at 12:27

To the best of my knowledge, NOT, when stressed like all words being stressed, cannot be contracted. Therefore, you can say either: "It would not have happened" or "It wouldn't have happened" if not stressed. Yet, if you put emphasis on "not" you can only say: " It would have not happened", usually pronouncing the word "not" louder and separated from the other words. You cannot say "it would haven't happened; you can only say:

"It would've not happened."

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