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Harry looked up at Crouch and saw that he looked gaunter and grayer than ever before. A nerve was twitching in his temple.

“Bring them in,” he said, and his voice echoed through the silent dungeon.

The door in the corner opened yet again. Six dementors entered this time, flanking a group of four people. Harry saw the people in the crowd turn to look up at Mr. Crouch. A few of them whispered to one another.

The dementors placed each of the four people in the four chairs with chained arms that now stood on the dungeon floor.

There was a thickset man who stared blankly up at Crouch; a thinner and more nervous-looking man, whose eyes were darting around the crowd; a woman with thick, shining dark hair and heavily hooded eyes, who was sitting in the chained chair as though it were a throne; and a boy in his late teens, who looked nothing short of petrified. ...

I feel "placed each of the four people in the four chairs" doesn't sound quite right. Either "placed each of the four people in each of the four chairs" or "placed the four people in the four chairs" makes more sense to me.

Any thought about it?

-- Excerpted from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Is there something in the earlier context which explains now stood? Did those chairs materialize out of thin air or something? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 28 '18 at 14:05
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo, I added more context. Previous context indicated that usually there was only one chair, and now this time there were four chairs. – dan Dec 28 '18 at 14:15
  • I find these questions somewhat tiresome. There have been many of them and we always come back to JK Rowling's method of expression as being A-OK. I see it as one chair per person. – Lambie Dec 28 '18 at 21:25
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The original and both of your alternatives sound to me like all the people were placed in all the chairs, a lump of four people on a stack of four chairs. Uncomfortable, to be sure, and perhaps not physically possible.

What is obviously intended is that there were four separate people placed into four separate chairs, one person to a chair. I can think of a handful of ways to re-phrase the original, the prominent being, "...placed each of the four people in one of the four chairs..."

However, the original at least provides an ambiguity, the possibility of either all four people together on all four chairs together, or four people and four chairs, one person per chair. We must allow our intuition to help us resolve this ambiguity, and that seems to be what Ms. Rowling (the author) is expecting here.

  • Is there any difference between "placed each of the four people in each of the four chairs" and "...placed each of the four people in one of the four chairs..."? I feel they are pretty much the same. – dan Dec 28 '18 at 14:17
  • @dan Perhaps it's a national/ regional difference thing (I'm from midwest U.S., not sure where you're from). To me, the each/each version implies lumping together, and the each/one version implies one-to-one. – cobaltduck Dec 28 '18 at 14:30
  • Thanks! I'm just an English language learner. I want to know what native speakers take for it. – dan Dec 28 '18 at 14:47
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    @dan There are a lot of times when we don't follow our own rules very strictly. In this context, the actual words are a little bit ambiguous, but since the idea of putting each person in four different chairs is ridiculous, we just assume correctly that each person gets one chair. – Darth Pseudonym Dec 28 '18 at 15:03
  • @cobaltduck Rowling rather than Rawling. J.K. won't thank you for misspelling her name. – Ronald Sole Dec 28 '18 at 21:18

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