as well they might have done

the1dsuniverse

Senior Member
Spanish
I don't really understand what 'as well they might have done' means here:

'They would rather touch their mouths with their little forked instruments than with their fingers', wrote Thomas Artus, who claimed that they looked especially silly as they strove to capture the peas and broad beans on their plates - as well they might have done, since early forks had long, widely separate prongs and scooping with them must have been impossible.

Is it the same as 'they might as well have', meaning that even if they had been able to 'capture' the peas and beans with their forks, it would've been sort of useless since forks only had two prongs and therefore the food would probably slip anyway?

If that's not it, then I'm open to suggestions :)
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English

    Is it the same as 'they might as well have',
    Yes. Note that Americans would tend to say "as well they might have" where Britons would say "as well they might have done". However, your interpretation of what this means is not correct.

    meaning that even if they had been able to 'capture' the peas and beans with their forks, it would've been sort of useless since forks only had two prongs and therefore the food would probably slip anyway?
    No. This structure refers back to the previous verb, which in this case is "looked": they might certainly (=as well they) have looked silly trying to eat peas with the forks they had then.

    These are old-style forks, and you can imagine how difficult it would be to use one of them to eat peas:
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hello. Could the phrase "as well they might have done" be replaced with the phrase "and with good reason (they might have looked silly)"?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Is it the same as 'they might as well have',
    In BE, no it isn't the same.

    I think "as well they might have done" it's more like "...and indeed they most probably did look silly" (confirming Artus' claim).
     

    the1dsuniverse

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Yes. Note that Americans would tend to say "as well they might have" where Britons would say "as well they might have done". However, your interpretation of what this means is not correct.


    No. This structure refers back to the previous verb, which in this case is "looked": they might certainly (=as well they) have looked silly trying to eat peas with the forks they had then.

    These are old-style forks, and you can imagine how difficult it would be to use one of them to eat peas:
    But why would someone say "as well they might have" instead of "they might as well have"? Is it some sort of inversion?

    And also, in what sense are they using 'might as well' here? Because I thought it was used in situations where it didn't matter whether you did something or not (like the outcome wouldn't change) for instance: I've been playing video games all day. I have a paper due tomorrow. The power goes out. I might as well start writing my paper now. >>> I can't play video games because the power went out so I might as well start writing my paper now since I have nothing to do.

    But I can't really see that usage here, is there any other way it can be used in?
     
    Last edited:

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    But why would someone say "as well they might have" instead of "they might as well have"? Is it some sort of inversion?
    They mean different things.

    If John misunderstood the contract terms and conditions, as well he might have done [ it would not be at all surprising if he misunderstood them ], he might have signed the document blissfully unaware of the risks he was taking.

    The taxi was so slow and had to stop so frequently, they might as well have walked home. [ Walking home was just as quick as the lousy taxi. ]
     

    the1dsuniverse

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    They mean different things.

    If John misunderstood the contract terms and conditions, as well he might have done [ it would not be at all surprising if he misunderstood them ], he might have signed the document blissfully unaware of the risks he was taking.

    The taxi was so slow and had to stop so frequently, they might as well have walked home. [ Walking home was just as quick as the lousy taxi. ]
    But if you said 'he might as well have' in your first sentence, wouldn't it mean the same thing as you just wrote? . If he misunderstood it (he might as well have), he might have signed the document...
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    "as well he might have done" is used to say (in effect): I don't know if he did or did not do that thing, but it would not surprise me if he did, because of the particulars of the situation.

    When the plain clothes cop tried to grab him in the street, he ran away thinking it was a mugger, as well he might have done, because the cop did not identify himself and was very scruffy.

    When the plain clothes cop tried to grab Tom in the street, he ran away thinking it was a mugger, which is not unreasonable given that the cop did not identify himself and was very scruffy.

    The speaker does not truly know the reason that Tom ran away, but it was not at all surprising that he did so and we should not think he was trying to avoid arrest.
     

    the1dsuniverse

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    "as well he might have done" is used to say (in effect): I don't know if he did or did not do that thing, but it would not surprise me if he did, because of the particulars of the situation.

    When the plain clothes cop tried to grab him in the street, he ran away thinking it was a mugger, as well he might have done, because the cop did not identify himself and was very scruffy.

    When the plain clothes cop tried to grab Tom in the street, he ran away thinking it was a mugger, which is not unreasonable given that the cop did not identify himself and was very scruffy.

    The speaker does not truly know the reason that Tom ran away, but it was not at all surprising that he did so and we should not think he was trying to avoid arrest.
    So in my original example, the writer is stating that it wouldn't surprise him if they did in fact look silly because early forks had long, widely separate prongs and scooping with them must have been impossible? Is that what he's saying?
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    So in my original example, the writer is stating that it wouldn't surprise him if they did in fact look silly because early forks had long, widely separate prongs and scooping with them must have been impossible? Is that what he's saying?
    Yes, that's correct.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top