3

Here is the text that contains the problematic expression:

...The board was a microcosm of the dysfunction: it split into two factions, one of them was led by Perkins... At 73 years old in 2005, Perkins may as well have been a time-traveling visitor from a bygone age of optimism: he thought that...

My question is about the bold text: Why did the author use "have been"? Why didn't he say something like "Perkinske seemed then like a time-traveling"? Is it correct what the author wrote?

4

Consider the time references here in these may + VERB constructions:

Who took the cookie from the cookie jar yesterday?
--It may have been a time-traveling visitor.

Who is taking cookies from the cookie jar today?
-- It may be a time-traveling visitor.

Who is going to take a cookie from the cookie jar tomorrow?
-- It may be a time-traveling visitor.

Well, the cookies are gone in any case, so it may as well have been a time-traveling visitor.

With may, which does not have different forms for past and future, the time indication is borne by the other verb in the construction.

The present and future are indicated with the bare unmarked infinitive.

The past is indicated by the present perfect.

This answer focuses on the tense. See SovereignSun's answer for the meaning of may as well.

5

"may as well" and "might as well" (Cambridge Dictionary) are used for making suggestions and to indicate that a situation is the same as if the hypothetical thing stated were true (Oxford Dictionary).

We can use them to say what we think is the easiest or most logical course of action when we cannot see a better alternative. They are both fairly informal. Might as well is more common than may as well:

Thus we conclude that it can be assumed that Perkins could have been a time-traveling visitor (hypothetical).

This answer focuses on the meaning. See Tᴚoɯɐuo's answer for the difference in tenses.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.