English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

She caught sight of Mr. Diggory’s feet, and slowly, tremulously, raised her eyes to stare up into his face; then, more slowly still, she looked up into the sky. Harry could see the floating skull reflected twice in her enormous, glassy eyes. (p134, Harry Potter 4, US edition)

NB – The floating skull is an ill omen, which a gangster launched into the sky by using magic, to show that his group is going to do bad things. The sign is illuminating the entire wood like some grisly neon sign. ‘She’ is an innocent passerby with big eyes. Mr. Diggory is a kind of policeman who thinks she is the gangster.

I’d like to know what the ‘twice’ means.

When I ran into the sentence, I thought she blinked and the sign reflected two times in her eyes, though there’s no ‘blink’ like expression around the sentence. Then, another idea occurred to me that the sign reflected in her two eyes, one by one.

Would you give me the right meaning of the ‘twice’?

share|improve this question
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think it is meant to refer to one reflection in each of her two eyes. There is no mention of blinking, nor any reason to think that the idea blinking is meant to be raised. Also, a blink would usually be thought of as interrupting a reflection rather creating a new reflection. Because eyes are convex, each of the two eyes normally shows a reflection of its own of each visible item in the environment.

share|improve this answer
I’m feeling as if a fog had cleared up. I can sleep well tonight. Thank you. – user7493 Jun 17 '11 at 2:43

I agree with @mgkrebbs

Here is a nicer story


share|improve this answer
@mplungian - At first I was surprised, picture staring at me. But looking closely, it’s very ‘twice’! Great! Thanks. And the linked URL showed me a good writing. – user7493 Jun 17 '11 at 2:44

I know this is an old post, but I randomly landed on this page and it got me thinking...

When twice is used to describe a verb, it means "two times". When it is used to describe a noun, it means "double in quantity".

This is a rather confusing example. What word is being described by twice can be debated.

Harry [could see] the floating skull reflected [twice] in her enormous, glassy eyes.

Harry could see the floating skull [reflected twice] in her enormous, glassy eyes.

Depending on how you read the sentence, twice can be describing either see or reflected. Regardless, both are verbs and therefore twice should mean "two times".

share|improve this answer
Since this didn't really answer the question, it probably should have been a comment, not an answer. We want people (even non-native speakers) to be able to search the site for answers, so we really want high-quality answers. After you get a response to a comment, you may see how to write the perfect answer. – Greg Hullender Sep 24 '13 at 18:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.