"Hillary Clinton was running for president knowing all too well that a woman has to be twice as qualified to be perceived as once as good."

Screenshot showing sentence quoted above

I'm confused by the sentence in bold. There's so many as...as...as...

I racked my brains, read it over and over again, still I don't get it.

I roughly know it means in order to be perceived as good and qualified as a man, a woman has to work twice harder?

What I don't understand is how these as work with each other (I mean how to explain these as?)
and what does once mean in the sentence? Is it like once, twice and thrice?

  • It's difficult to make sense of the phrase "as once as good." It looks like a typo of some sort. If it's not, then it's sloppy writing.
    – Mick
    Nov 11, 2016 at 11:49
  • @Mick If Paraphrased into "as good as once", will it be more rightful? Nov 11, 2016 at 11:53
  • I couldn't really think of an obvious paraphrase. "At once as good" might be what was intended.
    – Mick
    Nov 11, 2016 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


"once as good" is an unusual turn of phrase, a play on words. It is far more common to say "just as good" or simply "as good", meaning "equally good".

To be considered as good as a man (i.e. his equal), a woman must be perceived to be twice as good as he is, that is, to be doubly good, to have double his amount of competence, experience, etc.

  • So once is not like once,twice and thrice*?And could you explain how do those *as work ?There are 3 of them. Nov 11, 2016 at 15:16
  • Pattern1: Someone|something is as {modifier} as something|something. Tom is as hopeful as Mike (is hopeful). Tom's hope is not less than Mike's hope. My dog is as smart as your dog. Pattern2: Someone|something is {multiplier} as {modifier} as someone|something. The new skyscraper is twice as tall as the building across the street.
    – TimR
    Nov 11, 2016 at 15:26
  • When there is no multiplier mentioned, the default multiplier is 1, so to speak. There is no need to say "once as tall as". Unidiomatic: *Tom is [once] as old as Mike". Instead we say "Tom is just as old as Mike" or simply "Tom is as old as Mike".
    – TimR
    Nov 11, 2016 at 15:32
  • "a woman has to be twice as qualified to be perceived as once as good." What about in this case? I know those patterns, it just that none of them seems to fit the sentence.😭 Nov 11, 2016 at 15:33
  • That is not an idiomatic sentence. The author is "bending" the language in the hope of being perceived as clever. But she will have to be twice as clever as she is to be perceived as clever.
    – TimR
    Nov 11, 2016 at 15:34

As far as I understand, the author wanted to construct a sentence like this:
"twice as qualified" == "once as good"

So, yes, "once" is used like "once, twice and thrice", to underline the proportion between efforts and impression.

One "as" belongs to the construction "be perceived as", like in a sentence a woman has to be qualified to be perceived as good.
The second "as" belongs to the construction once as good, similar to common constructions "twice as good" or "half as good".

Take the first sentence and replace "qualified" and "good" with "twice as qualified" and, by analogy, "once as good", and you get this clumsy double "as".

  • 1
    You're right. The usual phrasing is to overstate it with "... as half as good."
    – Mick
    Nov 11, 2016 at 12:18
  • "One 'as' belongs to 'as good', and another one belongs to the construction 'be perceived as'."I don't understand the sentence. Nov 11, 2016 at 13:17
  • Could you explain a little more? Nov 11, 2016 at 13:18
  • It helped me to break down the sentence this way: "Hillary Clinton [knew] that a woman has to be 'double-qualified' just to make people think that she is 'as good' as her male peers." In general, it is saying that Hillary Clinton knows that politics is a man's world, and she knew that it would be tough on her when she ran for president. (From that, the reader might infer that Hillary Clinton is smart with good work ethics, and that her male peers are not as hard-working, although that is just the writer's slant or opinion, really.) Dec 16, 2018 at 5:41

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