Harry had once before had the experience of seeing something that Ron could not, but that had been a reflection in a mirror, something much more insubstantial than a hundred very solid-looking beasts strong enough to pull a fleet of carriages.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I'm not quite sure how to parse "Harry had once before had the experience..." correctly. Maybe, it could be paraphrased as: Harry had once before he had the experience.... But it looks a bit odd. How should we understand it?

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    It's the past perfect tense - I've added the tag to your post. – CowperKettle Jan 28 '19 at 11:52
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    Once before Harry had had the experience ... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 28 '19 at 11:58
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    @CowperKettle oh! I see. That makes sense. Thanks! – dan Jan 28 '19 at 11:59
  • It is a very clunky sentence it stumbles along uncomfortably. Do not use Harry potter as a style guide for good writing. – WendyG Jan 28 '19 at 14:36
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    @WendyG Well that depends what sort of writing you're doing and the style you want to adopt. If you want to write in a conversational, colloquial style that sounds like somebody telling a story to their child or their friend, Harry Potter is very very good. If you want to write poetry or academic prose ... probably not. But I wouldn't recommend using Twelfth Night as a style guide for sports journalism either ... I don't see any problem with the sentence at all – Au101 Jan 28 '19 at 20:05

Harry had | once before | had the experience | of seeing something | that Ron could not,

The meaning of this is that there was one previous occasion where Harry had seen something that Ron had not been able to see, namely, back in the first book when he had seen his family in the Mirror of Erised.

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