1. What was the most painful experience you have ever experienced as mother?

  2. What was the post painful experience you have ever experienced as a wife?

  3. What was the most painful experience?

What are the differences between these 3 questions?

What does change when we use "as a someone" and what does change if we change that "someone"?

  • I edited my question. Aug 12, 2019 at 14:01

1 Answer 1


The literal difference between these sentences is simply one of time limiting. "What was the most painful experience you have ever experienced as a mother" would be "from the time you became a mother until now, what was your most painful experience?" — if you choose to interpret the questions completely literally.

However, when people ask these questions, there is more than likely an extra nuance implied with these "as" clauses. "What was the most painful experience you have ever experienced as a mother" has the implied limitation that the painful experiences you're interested in are ones that have to do in some way with motherhood (or, for the "as a wife" example, married life). For instance, they might be looking specifically for conflicts with your children or partner, or times when your children or partner were seriously ill or upset; and even if you, for instance, lost your arm in an accident during your day job during that time, the asker probably isn't interested in that unless it specifically has to do with motherhood (or married life).

  • I'm quite sure no reasonable native speakers would interpret this in the "literal" way you described. It plainly means what you explain in the second paragraph.
    – TypeIA
    Aug 12, 2019 at 14:06
  • @TypeIA agreed, but I wanted to hedge my bets since I don't know if a similar construction might be used in the strictly literal sense. I can't think of any examples off-hand but that doesn't mean they don't exist!
    – Muzer
    Aug 12, 2019 at 14:07
  • if it was without "as", then the questioner is questioning about the most painful experience. But with as a "someone" the questioner is asking about the thing that is assocated with that "someone"? Aug 12, 2019 at 14:11
  • @AnungooGoo Correct, that's how I would interpret the questions.
    – Muzer
    Aug 12, 2019 at 14:13
  • 1
    the nuance is more like in the capacity of. eg What's the worst thing you've seen as a firefighter? is asking for the worst thing seen in the firefighting capacity. (rather than any worst thing since you became a firefighter)
    – Smock
    Aug 12, 2019 at 15:23

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