Could have well done something

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Sextus

Senior Member
Spanish
"Hence, even if AD v does not speak of the Pyrrhonist’s ‘private goods’, it seems that S. could well have done so."

Is this correct?

Sextus
 
  • Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    Sextus said:
    "Hence, even if AD v does not speak of the Pyrrhonist’s ‘private goods’, it seems that S. could well have done so."

    Is this correct?

    Sextus
    In English the fixed expression is "could/may very well have..." I can't tell by your sentence if it's what you're looking for.

    Z.

    Edit: Sorry, the "very" is optional though more common.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Sextus said:
    Well, what I'm looking for is to emphasize a little bit what I'm saying.
    Could well have + p participle

    This is idiomatic with or without the "very," and is a little formal but not overly so. I don't see where it adds emphasis, but it conveys a little more than possibility, a little less than probability.
    .
     

    RobertL2

    Member
    English USA
    I think the insertion of "well" between the auxiliary verb "could" and the participial phrase accomplishes what you've indicated you want to do.

    But you might want to consider that the variable here is not the "well" but the selection of the auxiliary verb. The two auxiliary verb candidates are "may" and "can" (might well have, could well have). The insertion of "well" makes each of these uses a stronger assertion of probability than either would be without "well" -- as you intended. However, even with "well", both uses retain a subjunctive mood.

    As between the two, "might well have" is less strong than "could well have" in part because "can" is stronger than "may." But in addition (to my eye, anyway), "might well have" also connotes of a degree of subjective judgment on the part of the writer that is not present -- or at any rate less prominent -- in "could well have." ("Might", though really the past tense of "may", is also sometimes used in the present instead of "may", in which case it is less forceful than "may.") Use of "might well have" where the surrounding discussion would seem to make "could well have" a plausible candidate would suggest to me that the writer is signalling some personal reservation as to the probability that the subject did in fact do what he might/could have.

    None of these musings are intended to apply to spoken AE. In the first place, these forms aren't used that commonly any more, and those who use them will lean toward "could well have" by default since "might well have" now seems to be a practically extinct construction here. Second, the distinction between the two is too subtle to take on much significance in spoken discourse, which is characteristically inexact and largely ephemeral: it's only when the words are fixed on the page that the difference is likely to make an impession.
     
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