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If he had fought in the First World War, he might have returned _____.

Is it correct to insert " as a different man" or " a different man"?

I suppose both are correct. "as a different man" function as an adverb phrase for return; for "a different man," I think it is an adjunct for "he," to give more description of him.

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In the UK we say, "returned a different man". We might also say "a changed man."

If we were to say, "He returned as a different man" it would mean he was pretending to be a different man, one of the meanings of as being "in the rôle of " or "playing the part of." For example, if an actor plays two parts in a film we might we say he "returns as a different man."

As you say, without "as" it is an adjunct; with "as" it's an adverbial phrase.

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