Pronunciation – Could Not Have = Couldn’t Have – Couldn’t’ve – Couldn’ah

In this pronunciation episode of Aussie English I teach you guys how to pronounce the contracted forms of “Could Not Have”.

Pronunciation – Could Not Have = Couldn’t Have – Couldn’t’ve – Couldn’ah

G’day guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. And today we’re going to do some pronunciation. So, it’s a pronunciation episode, and today I want to go over the contractions of “Could not have”. So, you’ll remember in episode 73: Pronunciation – Would Not Have we went over all the contractions of “Would not have”, “Wouldn’t have”, “Wouldn’t’ve” and “Wouldn’ah”. It’s exactly the same thing for “Could not have”. It’s “Could not have”, “Couldn’t have”, “Couldn’t’ve”, “Couldn’ah”. These are all things that native English speakers use quite a bit but a lot of the time they don’t even realize they’re doing it, and it’s the kind of thing that I think is really important to teach because whether or not you yourself decide to use all of these or… or a specific one of these contractions when you yourself speak English with other native speakers the most important thing is that you know what each of these sounds like and what each of these means so that when you hear them when other native English speakers use these contractions without thinking about it, when they speak to you, you’ll know instantly what it means and you won’t have to think about it.

So, “Could” is obviously an auxiliary or modal verb that is used in English. It’s quite common. It has quite a few different uses, and I probably won’t go through all of them here today because it would just take too much time. So, for this episode I mostly just want to focus on the pronunciation around the form “Could not have” plus a past participle. So, for instance, “I could not have done”, “I could not have been”, “I could not have gone”, “I could not have had”, that sort of form of grammar in English.

So, let’s just go straight into it guys. No wasting time. Let’s do some listen and repeat exercises. So, I’m just going to go through “Could not have” paired with all the different pronouns. So, “I, you, he, she, we, they” and maybe a few others as well like “It” and “Things” afterwards. So, let’s just go through the basics of how this set of words is contracted.

Listen and repeat:

I could not have

I couldn’t have

I couldn’t’ve

I couldn’ah


I could not have

I couldn’t have

I couldn’t’ve

I couldn’ah


You could not have

You couldn’t have

You couldn’t’ve

You couldn’ah


He could not have

He couldn’t have

He couldn’t’ve

He couldn’ah


She could not have

She couldn’t have

She couldn’t’ve

She couldn’ah


We could not have

We couldn’t have

We couldn’t’ve

We couldn’ah


They could not have

They couldn’t have

They couldn’t’ve

They couldn’ah


It could not have

It couldn’t have

It couldn’t’ve

It couldn’ah


Things could not have

Things couldn’t have

Things couldn’t’ve

Things couldn’ah

So, we might go through some substitution exercises as well guys where we’ll go through the three different contracted forms, which you’re most likely to hear when speaking with other native speakers. I might add that you may hear the uncontracted form of “Could not have” in English sometimes, but the most common way and reason you’re going to hear this uncontracted form is when someone is really really trying to emphasise the fact that someone or something “Could not have” and then whatever the past participle verb is. So, for example, if someone was accusing my brother of a crime and I knew that he had an alibi and it “couldn’t have been him”, I could say “It couldn’t have been him. It couldn’t have been him”, “It couldn’t have been him”, “It could not’ve been him”, but I’m most likely to say, “It COULD NOT HAVE been him” like that if I was really really really trying to emphasise the fact that it wasn’t him. So, that’s when you’re going to hear a lot of different things in English, not just “Could not have” in its fully uncontracted form. It’s usually when someone is really trying to emphasise something as opposed to speaking more casually where you would say the contracted form of “Nah, couldn’t’ve been him”.

So, yeah, another reason also could be if someone doesn’t hear what I’m saying. So, if I did say to someone “It couldn’t’ve been him” and they said, “Excuse me, what did you say?” and I said, “It couldn’t’ve been him”, and they said, “Sorry I don’t understand”. That is when I’m going to say, “Look, I said, It could not have been him”. That is another reason I might do that.

So, here are some commonly used phrases with “Couldn’t have”. So, just listen and repeat after me, and I’m going to say them in the form “Couldn’t have” and I want you to contract them into “Couldn’t’ve”. “Couldn’t’ve”.

Substitution exercise:

I couldn’t have said it better.

I couldn’t’ve said it better myself


You couldn’t have picked a better place for a picnic.

You couldn’t’ve picked a better place for a picnic.


He couldn’t have been friendlier.

He couldn’t’ve been friendlier.


She couldn’t have known I would be here early.

She couldn’t’ve known I would be here early.


We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.


They couldn’t have escaped.

They couldn’t’ve escaped.


Things couldn’t have worked out better.

Things couldn’t’ve worked out better.

So you’ll see there, at least for me, it sounds really awkward when I say “Couldn’t have” in these phrases. Most of the time when I’m speaking casually, informally, I’m just going to say “Couldn’t’ve”, “Couldn’t’ve”. So, it’s almost like you literally say “Couldn’t” and then you just touch on the “-Veh” sound in “Have”. “Couldn’t’ve”, “Tev”, “Tev”, “Tev”.


So, we’ll do one more listen and repeat exercise guys, and I’m going to go over the same sentences we just said except this time I’m going to say them in the form “Couldn’t’ve”. So, that was the form that I had you contract them into last time. And this time I want you to convert them into “Couldn’ah”, “Couldn’ah”. So, I’m really trying to use the same sentences and get you to mainly focus on the pronunciation of these contractions.

Substitution Exercise:

I could not have said it better.

I couldn’ah said it better.


You couldn’t’ve picked a better place for a picnic.

You couldn’ah picked a better place for a picnic.


He couldn’t’ve been friendlier.

He couldn’ah have been friendlier.


She couldn’t’ve known I would be here early.

She couldn’ah have known I would be here early.


We couldn’t’ve been more wrong.

We couldn’ah have been more wrong.


They couldn’t’ve escaped.

They couldn’ah have escaped.


Things couldn’t’ve worked out better.

Things couldn’ah have worked out better.

So, that’s pretty much it guys. I hope you don’t mind all these exercises. They’re just the kind of thing that I really like doing when I’m learning Portuguese or French at the moment. I really love having to do these exercises where I have to think and then repeat and I get to hear a native use it and especially these sorts of contractions. I love practicing this sort of stuff in other languages because it’s what other people use and it’s what I hear. Hopefully, too, you’re going to notice how much easier it is to speak in a more fluid and natural way when you use these contractions. So, even I notice that when I say “Could not have” in a sentence it’s very awkward, or when I say even “Couldn’t have” it’s very awkward. I much much much prefer to say “Couldn’t’ve” or “Couldn’ah”. In fact I’ll probably almost always say “Couldn’ah”. And these sorts of contractions I’ll use around anyone. So, it’s not the kind of thing you have to worry about necessarily using in a formal situation or an informal situation. I don’t think it matters. I wouldn’t be conscious of whether or not I’m contracting things with whoever I’m talking to unless it was someone who was learning English and I had to make sure that they understood what I was saying. That is when I would try and ease up and be a little bit nicer with how quickly I spoke and how many contractions I use, and the main reason I probably do that is because I have so many friends who don’t speak English as their native language, and they always ask me to slow down and to repeat what I say. So, I’m at least aware of the fact that these things happen.

Anyway, it’s probably a long enough episode guys. I hope you enjoy it and I’ll chat to you soon. All the best!

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