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What are the nuances in the changed meaning behind the two following sentences when only the last sentence is changed into the other?

1) I have to kill her before she kills me. But, what should I do?

vs

2) I have to kill her before she kills me. But, how?

  • First, "but" isn't an adverb but a coordinating conjunction, so when using it to introduce a main clause like you do, it is not to be followed by a comma. – Benjamin Harman Sep 5 '19 at 21:27
  • Now that's out of the way, the difference between the first and the second is the first is generally narrower in scope but also has scope the second doesn't. One could, for example, answer the second question by saying, "With extreme prejudice," or, "Painfully," but those answers are outside the scope of the first. On the other hand, "what should I do" contains scope "how" doesn't, like maybe being a moral question rather than a question of method, which might be answered, "Not kill her," an answer "how" doesn't ask for. These are the possible nuances, the places where they don't overlap. – Benjamin Harman Sep 5 '19 at 21:35
  • @BenjaminHarman, that looks an awful lot like an answer to me. Also, "what should I do" doesn't seem narrower in scope. Answers to "what should I do" would include all the answers in "how," since every way of killing her would be a thing you could do. I.e. "kill her painfully" is one thing you could do. – Juhasz Sep 5 '19 at 21:44
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In 1) the first and second sentence are redundant. The first sentence establishes what the writer has to do: kill her. The second sentence is answered by the first. What you should do is kill her.

In 2) the second section requests specifics of how to carry out (execute, if you will) the task mandated by the first sentence. "I have to kill her" and then "how (to kill her)".

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