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Compare these sentences:

  • This woman standing right next to him in this picture could very well be his mother

  • This woman standing right next to him in this picture might as well be his mother

Are they correct and do they mean the same thing?

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    In your second sentence the people at the adoption agency have become negligent and slapdash! The words "might as well" suggest we don't have a strong opinion about an action: we don't much care whether she becomes (or plays the part of in a film or a play) his mother or not. Because it is preceded by "might as well", we see the word "be" as an action, not a state. In the first sentence it is clear that be describes a state. – Old Brixtonian May 13 at 11:58
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They are both correct but they mean different things.

The woman could very well be his mother.

This means the woman might actually be his mother. The speaker isn't certain but thinks it's possible.

The woman might as well be his mother.

This means: (1) the woman looks very very similar to his mother (which we might know because we know what his mother looks like, or just because she looks similar to the man himself); or (2) she is acting like his mother in a way you wouldn't expect a stranger to act (standing near him, messing with his hair, etc). But neither meaning implies that she actually is his mother.

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