There is already discussion on cannot very well do in the forum: "very well" in "I can't very well talk to you and concentrate on sanding this at the same time."

And I'd like to raise two new questions based on instances I've seen variations of this expression used. (btw I feel unsure whether this sentence I just wrote is gramatically correct)

  1. Can I omit the very?

Because it seems Chomsky has done this in Language and Thought.

Frege's basic assumption is that "mankind possesses a common treasure of thoughts which is transmitted from generation to generation," something that "cannot well be denied."

  1. The rarely seen can (very) well do meaning obviousness or appropriateness: can it be safely used as the antonym of can't (very) well do?

I reckon it can well be confused with can well do meaning ability or ... ableness? But there is this example from WSJ:

It’s at least conceivable, then, that Xi could very well begin to privately pressure Putin to find a way out of the war and back to some semblance of global stability.

1 Answer 1


To question one:

It's perfectly correct, 'very' is merely an intensifier. It is not a very common form, though.

To question two:

It's hard to imagine every context, but yes. To give a straightforward example:

He can't very well raise taxes He can very well raise taxes

Mean the opposite to each other.

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