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In the dictionary, how has meanings of the manner or way in which and to what extent, degree.

By the end of the lesson, only Hermione Granger had made any difference to her match; Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy and gave Hermione a rare smile.

Did Professor McGonagall repeat what Hermione did (demonstrate how she did it), or did she just pick up the match that Hermione had changed, to show how much it had been changed?


Can you show me how I may tell which of these meanings is in play?

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closed as not a real question by Cameron, Will Hunting, MετάEd, Mahnax, tchrist Nov 17 '12 at 12:48

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The fact that I assumed Prof McGonagall was a man probably means I shouldn't presume to know this! My guess is that in this specific case, "how" could be replaced by "that" or "how much". But that's only because it's the most likely scenario, not because of the grammatical form. In other very similar constructions, "how" could be replaced by something like "the way it was done". In short, this particular use of the word "how" is inherently ambiguous. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 5:14
So, grammatically, how - as a conjunction - can't include the meaning of 'how much or the degree of what have been done'? – Listenever Nov 17 '12 at 5:27
All that need be done here is to replace "how" with "that". This is a simple substitution and it is what works here. The "how" here is not at all ambiguous: "how" = "that". No question. The Prof did not repeat what Hermoine did, she merely held up the match and displayed Hermoine's successful result. – user21497 Nov 17 '12 at 7:05
Thank you, I get it. – Listenever Nov 17 '12 at 9:20
@Bill Franke: I disagree there's "no ambiguity". In these half-a-dozen instances of "showed him how it had", unquestionably in some you can substitute "[the fact] that", but in others it's "the extent to which", or "the method by which". You cannot determine which applies by grammar alone, and in some cases I'm sure the construction could be ambiguous. I think the closevoters are wrong, and this question should be reopened. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 14:49
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The second one. They all know how she did it. The remarkable things was the fact she could do it.

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All students did their own job, so they couldn't know how she did it. – Listenever Nov 17 '12 at 5:10
The teacher gave them all the information they needed to perform the spell. She didn't keep anything secret. It's just practicing it that takes time. Think of it like juggling. I know how people juggle 4 balls, I just can't do it myself. – Sam Nov 17 '12 at 5:13
The fact that you know how she did it (having read all about it in the book), and the possibility that they know (having been taught by same teacher) isn't all that relevant. The question is how do you know what the words mean if you don't already know that before you read them? – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 5:18
@FumbleFingers I suppose you don't technically know which meaning, except through experience, and the thought that if the authors intention was the first meaning, it could and should have been written in a much less ambiguous way. – Sam Nov 17 '12 at 5:34
If we can ‘change’ how into ‘that,’ would it be a very matter-of-fact interpretation? education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/how CONJUNCTION: 1. The manner or way in which: forgot how it was done. 2. That. 3. In whatever way or manner; however: Cook it how you please. – Listenever Nov 17 '12 at 5:44

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