0

An article titled "THE NIGHT ON THE BRIDGE" has this paragraph:

I choked back tears as I contemplated my impending suicide attempt. What had started as a late-night run to clear my head had ended with me precariously balancing on the edge of a slippery bridge wall. Something inside was screaming at me to get down, begging me to think rationally about what I was about to do, but the despair in my heart was so heavy I thought it alone could drag me off the bridge into the traffic below. In that moment, I could think about nothing but how dying would end the torturous battle of being at odds with myself.

Is it possible to replace how in the last sentence with the way without significantly changing its meaning *?

In that moment, I could think about nothing but the way dying would end the torturous battle of being at odds with myself.

*EDIT

By "significantly changing its meaning" I mean this:

Normally, "how" is replaceable with "the way" without significantly changing its meaning when it means "the way in which". For example:

I always think about how English works.

Here, "how" means "the way in which" and thus can be replaced with "the way" without significantly changing its meaning:

I always think about the way English works.

But when "how" does not mean "the way in which", it cannot be replaced with "the way" without significantly changing its meaning.

For example:

It's amazing how they completed the bridge so quickly.

Here, "how" doesn't mean "the way in which" thus cannot be replaced with "the way" without significantly changing its meaning.

It's amazing the way they completed the bridge so quickly.

3
  • 2
    The easy answer is no, you can't replace "how" with "the way" without "significantly" changing the meaning...but you don't specify what you consider "significant", so the question is meaningless to anybody who doesn't know what you mean before reading it, unless they're willing to guess.
    – JEL
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 3:41
  • @JEL what about the ways? Is it still not possible? Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 3:57
  • @JEL Please see my EDIT.
    – JK2
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 4:10

1 Answer 1

2

The Cambridge dictionary gives four definitions of "how" as a conjunction,

  1. the manner or way in which
  2. about the manner, condition, or way in which
  3. in whatever manner or way; however
  4. that

Very often the word how is used in the sense of "the way in which", as in OP's example:

I always think about how English works

but in the passage from the Night on the Bridge

I could think about nothing but how dying would end the torturous battle of being at odds with myself

it seems to me that the author meant "that" rather than "the way in which". That seems to me the best fit, but without asking the author we can't be sure, and anyway some people argue that the interpretation of literature does not depend on the author's intent. There can be overtones and connotations which the author may, or may not, have consciously intended.

So by changing "how" to "that" we are not necessarily changing the author's meaning, but we are interpreting and narrowing the original.

Also, by changing "how" to "the way" you would not necessarily be changing the meaning from the original, but you would be interpreting it significantly differently from someone who interpreted it as "that".

Perhaps to the person standing on the bridge, the fact "that" jumping in the water would end his torment, was the primary consideration; but do we feel that the "way in which" this would happen, the agonies of drowning, were not also on his mind? Perhaps interpreting how as only meaning "that", or only meaning "in which way" loses some of the meaning. It is a question of interpretation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.