What is the difference between could be and could well be in this sentence I found at the bottom right side of page 4 on https://d2cyt36b7wnvt9.cloudfront.net/exams/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/12173028/hess306.pdf?

Advocate Roy examines Sushil and his employer as defense witness. Through their testimonies, she was able to show that Rs 10,000 found in Shanti's trunk could well be the earnings of Sushil and Shanti.

1 Answer 1


The addition of well emphasises the likelihood of the statement being true; it changes may be to probably is.


  • It's related to this question so I don't think it's worth of a new question. Is there a difference in meaning between ...could/may/might well be... and ...could/may/might as well be...? Oct 8, 2022 at 19:25
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    @ihavenoidea There is definitely a difference. I think this is worthy of its own question, honestly. The nuance there is very obvious to me (a native speaker) but I can see that it would be very confusing to a learner!
    – Hearth
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:13
  • I don't agree that "could well be" suggests anywhere near the level of likelihood that "probably is" does. "Probably" indicates a probability significantly above 50%, whereas "could well" just indicates a probability significantly above 0%.
    – ruakh
    Oct 8, 2022 at 23:53
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    @ihavenoidea: They actually mean completely different things. "He might well be X" means "It's quite possible that he is X", whereas "He might as well be X" means "He isn't X, but it wouldn't make a difference if he were".
    – ruakh
    Oct 9, 2022 at 2:43

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