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So I rewatched Avengers: Infinity War yesterday, and there is one question that comes to my mind.

We know that Thanos had to get all the infinity stones to accomplish what he was set to do, kill half the population to let the other half live better, but my question is how the infinity stones can do that. What is the role of each infinity stone during the snap?

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    We simply do not know and the accepted answer is based on speculation (like many others about this movie). – Mithoron Dec 28 '18 at 20:55
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Nerdist tired to analyse this based on what we know from films and interviews:

Infinity War‘s VFX supervisor Dan DeLeeuw revealed to Inverse that the Power Stone was responsible for the infamous “blipping” that turned the Mad Titan’s victims into dust. When you see how that purple rock ripped apart flesh and manipulated matter in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, it makes sense that the Power Stone was the one Thanos used to instantly incinerate his victims.

But if one specific stone in the gauntlet had one specific job during the “Snapture,” what were the others doing? How did each one contribute to Thanos’s grand dusting? Based on what we know about the abilities of each Infinity Stone, and what took place in the moments after Thanos snapped his fingers, here’s how we think they all contributed to the film’s conclusion.

Mind Stone (yellow)

The final stone Thanos got his giant hands on when he ripped it from Vision’s head was the Mind Stone. It gives its user powerful mental capabilities, including reaching a higher plane of consciousness and controlling the minds of others. When Thanos placed it in the Gauntlet, he transcended his mortal existence and became a literal god with the power to create and destroy life at will. This was also how he made his dusting arbitrary–the stone determined that for him. Perhaps this is the same concept as god being omnipotent but also giving Adam and Eve free will.

He needed the Mind Stone just as much for its other ability though. Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo have said Peter Parker took longer than the others to vanish because he was fighting his demise. Without the Mind Stone it’s possible some would-be victims would have been able to survive for a lot longer, if not entirely.

Time Stone (green)

Thanos told Doctor Strange it would be “mercy” to kill half of all life in the universe in an instant, but with planets separated by billions of light years that isn’t possible without the Time Stone. The Mad Titan can freeze time everywhere, regardless of relativity, so all of those deaths happened at roughly the same exact moment.

This might seem like the most obvious use of any individual stone, but we know from the end of Doctor Strange that using the Time Stone on such a grand scale runs “contrary to the natural order of things,” which is why it is probably the only Infinity Stone that needed another one to counterbalance it.

Reality Stone (red)

Thanos showed off the power of the Reality Stone on Knowhere when he tricked the Guardians, and he relied on it multiple times during the fight on Titan. It’s so powerful the VFX team considering using it as the reason for the actual “dusting” (along with the Soul Stone). But when Thanos snapped his fingers, he didn’t change reality in the same manner as he did earlier in the movie. He just made the reality we already knew worse.

The Reality Stone’s major contribution is counteracting the Time Stone. By freezing time everywhere, Thanos destroyed the natural order, which would have had unintended consequences if not for the Reality Stone. He did create an entirely new reality, one where he could manipulate the entire universe at once.

Space Stone (blue)

The Mad Titan’s plan involved the entire universe, but… :checks notes:…space is big. That’s not an issue for whomever wields the Space Stone though. It lets its user be anywhere in an instant by opening up a portal. That’s how Loki brought the Chitauri fleet into New York City.

During the snap the Space Stone allowed Thanos to not only stop time, but to be everywhere at once. The Power Stone normally needs to on a planet or in close proximity to its victim, but the Space Stone let its powers spread across the universe.

Soul Stone (orange)

Most of what we know about the Soul Stone still comes from Marvel comics. It can manipulate all living souls, and that’s why it exacts such a price to possess it. The entire point of collecting all of the stones was to kill half of all lives in the universe, but while the Mind Stone took his victims’ will to live, and the Power Stone took their bodies, the Soul Stone took something else entirely.

What did it do exactly? The Russo Brothers confirmed the Soul Stone allows its user to trap souls in a pocket dimension, which is where Gamora went. Was that where she was when we saw her as a young girl (in an orange world) after he snapped his fingers? Could that be where the rest of his victims also went when they turned to dust? That’s the most important question we still need answered, but Red Skull did tell Thanos the Soul Stone has a certain wisdom.

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Warning this is speculation, but I believe it is the more canonical answer here and more consistent with the mythological references that Marvel seems to be drawing from.

When Thanos gained all of the infinity stones in unison, it has to be understood that the total whole of them is greater than any individual combination of them. This is apparent in the scene where he obtains the final stone. Within that scene all he gained was the mind stone but adding it caused a burst of energy to be unleashed and flow through him. This is because having all of the infinity stones in one place is in and of itself a special power. Each stone does grant the wielder control over individual elements however, it is my opinion that the combination of bringing all of the stones together grants a power that none of the individual stones has. While I am not familiar with the comics notion of this, the movies state that each of the six infinity stones is crystallized ingots of the 6 "elements" that created (and make up) the Marvel universe.

With this in mind let me now compare this to the classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water. While some systems and works of fiction considered other things such as metal and wood there was a notion of combining all of the elements together. Doing so in the right manner created aether (or ether) which was a notion of pure energy or magical energy. I don't know the details. What is important to understand here is that aether was a fifth element and was culmination of all of them together in complete unison. One could not look and say it was any one of the four original elements as they had formed something that was no longer consisting of the original components. This idea also factors into notions in alchemy of 7 elements or 7 components coming together to form a deity like being (hmm this sounds a bit familiar). To go with a more direct and cheesy comparison there is the triforce in the legend of zelda which has 3 pieces that are each different personality traits that when put together create a relic that can grant any wish. The original traits do not in and of themselves grant this ability. There is a separate thing being built here. I bring these all up because I believe they all describe in different ways the sort of thing the infinity gauntlet is supposed to be.

So my hypothesis here is that while each stone controls a different element in the Marvel universe having all of them makes the result go to a higher level than just controlling those things. Once Thanos had each of the stone he no longer was simply using the stones to manipulate the universe through their influence. Rather by bringing together the six elements in their crystalline form he had gained the ability to the control the universe itself directly rather than having to go through the singularities and their uses. Effectively having all the singularities together gave him direct control over the universe. In other words having all of the infinity stones allowed him to make the universe fulfill any desire he wanted simply as the combination of the whole. Even if he wasn't doing mind related things he would still need the mind stone as having all six completes the set of elements necessary to produce that notion of "aether" or the total combination of all the elements. Note that before he obtained the mind stone each stone was not being used in an over the top fashion. For instance when he lacked the mind stone he was only restricted by not having mastery over the mind. However, he still had to do time spells to bring back vision, had to use the space stone to open regular portals, and couldn't simply teleport the stone directly into the gauntlet by using the command of the other stones.

Conclusion:

Having all of the infinity stones grants one the power of a deity in a way that lacking any stone would make impossible even if that element is not being manipulated

So while the roles of the infinity stones might be that they contribute different things or had different effects I think the real answer is that they all came together to give the power of just granting a wish and that the following quote sums it up best.

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