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"The Sorcerer's Stone! Of course -- the Elixir of Life! But I don't understand who --"

"Can you think of nobody who has waited many years to return to power, who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?" ... ...

I think 'nobody' here refers to Voldermort. I don't understand why 'nobody' is being used in this context. I figure it might mean the sense: a person of no influence, authority, or importance. But I think Voldermort isn't that kind of person. On the contrary, he meant a lot to all the people in the book. Otherwise, 'anyone' or 'anybody' looks more appropriate for this context in my opinion.

Any thoughts?

-- Excerpted from Harry Potter.

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    "Can you think of nobody..." has the same meaning of "Can't you think of anybody..." The negative word is just moved to a different place. I think the "Can...nobody" construction is more common in BrE than AmE. Oct 16, 2018 at 14:26
  • @CanadianYankee That make much sense!
    – dan
    Oct 16, 2018 at 14:49
  • Or "can you not think of anybody". Stated with emphasis, possibly rude or impolite in this form, unless spoken by an elder or teacher.
    – mckenzm
    Oct 13, 2021 at 22:33

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It is a way of saying that the other person is being a little obtuse.

I wonder why he's kneeling on one knee at the restaurant table and looking earnestly into that woman's eyes.
-- Can you think of no reason why he might be doing that?

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