might well have done it

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Do you agree that the following sentence can have two meanings, depending on context? Or does the adverb "well" make the second meaning meaning unlikely?

He might well have done it.

a) he may well have done it, for all I know.
b) he could have done it but did not.

  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hullo CF. It's not the well that makes the second meaning unlikely: it's the might.

    All it basically means (to me) is: He may have done it; I incline slightly towards thinking that he has; but I don't know for sure.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The sentence is ambiguous, and, given appropriate context, could mean a) or b).

    He didn't do it. But he might well have done it.

    Different people will have different ideas of whether a) or b) seems more likely without context.


    Senior Member
    "Well" here emphasizes the reality of the possibility, which does not affect the probability. Neither "might" nor "may" tells us whether he did it, and neither "might" nor "may" expresses anything about the probability that he did it, except that it is (with "may") or would be (with "might") certainly not zero.
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