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I am unable to differentiate between the meaning conveyed by the following two sentences:

  1. After all, what is so hard about Quantum Field Theory?

  2. What is so hard about Quantum Field Theory anyway?

I want to confirm whether they do convey the same meaning or there is some difference between the meaning conveyed by the two. Thanks!

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    The two expressions are used in different ways and "literally" mean different things, but in this "figurative" use there really is no difference. – Andrew Oct 6 '17 at 20:44
  • @Andrew Thanks for your comment. And it would further be equivalent to "What is so hard about it after all?". Right? – Feynmans Out for Grumpy Cat Oct 6 '17 at 20:47
  • I think the placement of "after all" is a question of personal style, nothing more. Sometimes it sounds better before, sometimes after. – Andrew Oct 6 '17 at 23:12
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The first sentence would likely come after:

I built a quantum computer in my spare time. After all, what is so hard about Quantum Field Theory?

Meaning the speaker fully understands the subject but not why others do not https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/after_all

To me the place of the "after all" is interchangeable - I do prefer the sentence above to this one:

I built a quantum computer in my spare time. What is so hard about Quantum Field Theory after all?


The second comes after a sentence like

All the nerds in my uni sweat day and night over their Quantum thesis'. What is so hard about Quantum Field Theory anyway?

Meaning the speaker does NOT understand Quantum field theory but doubts it can be hard or feels that his subject is much harder (Think Sidney Sheldon)

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/anyway (examples 1.1)

If you use anyway before the sentence, you are changing subject:

So I finally finished and went to watch TV. Anyway, what is so hard about Quantum Field Theory?

  • Ok! Thanks for your answer. Can you comment whether "What is so hard about Quantum Field Theory after all?" will be used in a situation similar to "What is so hard about QFT anyway?" or "After all, what is so hard about QFT?"? – Feynmans Out for Grumpy Cat Oct 6 '17 at 21:36
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    I would think using after all before or after the sentence is interchangeable. It just sounds more idiomatic to my ears if it is before the sentence – mplungjan Oct 6 '17 at 21:52
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    I gave other examples of what happens if you move Anyway to the front of the sentence etc – mplungjan Oct 6 '17 at 21:55

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