[Vocabulary] what they differ in / how they differ

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nyggus

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Hi,

Which of the two following sentences is better or sounds better?

  1. I will show what these two methods differ in and what they have in common.
  2. I will show how these two methods differ and what they have in common.

I like the first one more because of the parallel construction ("what... what...", but also note the play with "in"), but maybe the latter sounds better? Maybe both are OK and it doesn't matter which I choose (in which case I'd choose the first one)?

Thanks,
nyggus
 

nyggus

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OK, got it. But could you please explain what's wrong with # 1? I've see constructions "in what they differ" and "what they differ in" used in academic writing in similar contexts to the one of # 1 sentence.
 

Matthew Wai

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'How' means 'in what way', which makes sense in your sentence, where 'what' alone does not make sense.
 

nyggus

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'How' means 'in what way', which makes sense in your sentence, where 'what' alone does not make sense.

According to thefreedictionary.com:

differ in something
[for people or things] to be different in a specific way or in specific ways

The dictionary gives the following example: "They differ in size and shape." So, in what they differ?

So note that "what" is not used alone but with "in".
 

Matthew Wai

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1. They differ in size and shape.
2. What they differ in is size and shape.
3. How do they differ in size and shape?
 

nyggus

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1. They differ in size and shape.
2. What they differ in is size and shape.
3. How do they differ in size and shape?

Note, then, that #2 does not answer the question in #3. Try asking in what they differ; they differ in size and shape. So, what do they differ in? They differ in size and shape.
 

nyggus

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By the way, note this book, which is a translation of "Saint John of Domascus". Its eleven chapters' titles have the construction "What ... have in common and in what they differ".
 

GoesStation

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Although sentence 1 is grammatically correct, it's terribly awkward. Sentence 2 is natural.
 

nyggus

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I agree that the construction is possible, but I would not justify this by citing a religious work translated formally some sixty years ago.

I agree in 100%. But please note that I did not use this religious work to justify anything. I just presented a by-the-way fact about the construction that I found interesting, that's all. Didn't you find this fact interesting?
 
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