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I'm aware of what it possibly means, but I was wondering if the following two sentences have, to some extent, different nuances.

Here's the situation; Two friends are talking about a woman they ran into during an office party.

  • "Could she possibly be married?"
  • "Could she be married, by any chance?"

I'm aware that there are much easier or more natural ways to ask this, I'm just curious about these sentences.

  • I think the first one has more of a tone of surprise, like how on Earth could she be married... – user58 Apr 1 '17 at 18:40
  • Yeah, that's exactly what I was trying to ask...I mean, If I asked a native the same question, would it sound as if I'm surprised rather than being neutral about it? – Jake Apr 1 '17 at 19:07
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1. "Could she possibly be married?"

2. Could she be married, by any chance?"

To the best of my knowledge, there is no basic difference between these two questions. Let's reword them.

The first question can also be:

Could she, by any chance, be married? All I just did was to break possibly which is an adverb into an interrupter. You will observe that it's not any different from the second question.

However, if you restructure the second question into this:

Could she be married, possibly?

Adverbs are very flexible, they can be put anywhere in a sentence ans still won't alter the meaning. But sometimes, they change the meaning of the sentence like the one above.

Could she be married, possibly? Here, possibly seems odd, and at best, it's a double question.

Let's give the scenario you painted a little background.

The presence of Lola is very intoxicating, at least for Ben. He casts another look at her. What a beauty. He has to do something about it. "Hey Luke," Ben turns to his colleague, "Could she be possibly married?" He nods Luke towards Lola who is wearing an elegant purple gown. He asks again, when Luke seems confused. "Could Lola be married? Possibly?"

In my opinion, there is no difference between the two sentences.

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