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By/in doing X, Y happens.

I am trying to understand the subtle difference between "by doing X" and "in doing X" .


This thread's responder says that: " Both "by doing X" and "in doing X" form non-finite adjunct clauses of cause or reason. In the most general sense, they both mean 'as a consequence of doing X.' Consequently, there are many situations where both items, be and in, sound acceptable."

And suggest using "by doing X" if the the other action, Y, is the "direct result" of the X.

Then suggest using "in doing X" or "by doing X" if X is the "indirect cause" of the other action, Y.


On the other hand, this thread's responder says that: "Using the word "in" means that the action takes place at the same time as something. However "by" is used to denote the manner or reason something was done. "

So "in doing so" actually means "while doing so", but "by doing so" means "because I did so".

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Supposing this explanation above is correct, I wonder if I can use use "while" in the place of "in" in this kind of situations.


  1. By trying to solve one problem, I created another.

Does this sentence mean "creating another problem" is the direct result of the "trying to solve one problem" ? Do "trying to solve one problem" and "creating another problem" happen at the same time? or "trying to solve one problem" happens first and then "creating another problem" happens as a result of the first action?

  1. In trying to solve one problem, I created another.

Do "trying to solve one problem" and "creating another problem" happen at the same time? or "trying to solve one problem" happens first and then "creating another problem" happens as a result of the first action?

  1. While trying to solve one problem, I created another.

What is the difference between this sentence and sentence 2?


  1. Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Sonia and admits that by killing the two women – Alena Ivanovna and her servant and sister, Elizabeth - he actually destroyed himself.

Do "killing the two women" and "destroying himself" happen at the same time? or "killing the two women" happens first and then "destroying himself" happens as a result of the first action?

  1. Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Sonia and admits that in killing the two women – Alena Ivanovna and her servant and sister, Elizabeth - he actually destroyed himself. (Original one)

Do "killing the two women" and "destroying himself" happen at the same time? or "killing the two women" happens first and then "destroying himself" happens as a result of the first action?

  1. Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Sonia and admits that while killing the two women – Alena Ivanovna and her servant and sister, Elizabeth - he actually destroyed himself.

What is the difference between this sentence and sentence 5?

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Yes, if you created another problem by trying to solve one problem, then the problem you created was caused by you trying to solve the one problem.

Your analysis is good, but you've arrived at these conclusions by substituting a group of words you understand well with a group of words you don't quite understand.

The other problem you created while trying to solve the one problem could have nothing to do with you trying to solve the problem. All it suggests is you created another problem when you were trying to solve the problem. However, if you created another problem in trying to solve one problem, that suggests the other problem had to do with you trying to solve the problem.

While it's unclear how you created another problem, it is clear it was related to your work on the one problem (problem you were originally trying to solve).

Same idea applies to your other example. The sentence with "while" suggests Raskolnikov destroyed himself when he was killing the two women. The sentence with "in" suggests that something about killing the women destroyed him.

  • Thanks. I understand "while doing" part of my question. But I am still not sure what is the precise difference between "by doing" and "in doing". Could you answer these questions for sentence 1 : Do "trying to solve one problem" and "creating another problem" happen at the same time? or "trying to solve one problem" happens first and then "creating another problem" happens as a result of the first action? (First sentence: By trying to solve one problem, I created another.) – Talha Özden Jul 22 at 15:09
  • As I said, your analysis is good. If you created another problem in trying to solve one problem, the other problem had to do with, but was not necessarily a result of, you trying to solve the one problem. It could have happened in the same time frame as your trying to solve the one problem (you creating another problem) or later. This may clarify why "while" is not a perfect substitute for "in" in your example. – Ella Strange Jul 22 at 15:34
  • Thanks. So "by doing X" expresses that Y is a result of "doing X". X happens and then Y happens. They are not happening at the sime time? – Talha Özden Jul 22 at 16:41
  • No, not necessarily. If, say, I got tired by running around the block, I didn't run around the block and then get tired. I got tired in the course of my running around the block. – Ella Strange Jul 22 at 18:25
  • Then I see no difference between "by doing X" and "in doing X" except that "by doing X" is used to indicate a direct results whereas "in doing X" is not used that way. Other than that, they both mean the same thing? Even though Y happens in the course of doing X, I can use "by doing X" ? Would you use "by doing so" here? "I hastily cleared up after the party guests had left, but in doing so I broke an expensive vase" – Talha Özden Jul 22 at 20:07

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