Seconds later, or so it seemed to Harry, he was woken by what sounded like cannon-fire as the door burst open.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I'm not quite sure how to understand "or so it seemed to Harry". Should it be "[or] [so it seemed to Harry]" or "[or so] [it seemed to Harry]"? Is it a common expression? Are there other ways to express it?

  • This is a common idiom. You can find a definition with a simple google.
    – Gamora
    Jun 10, 2019 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


Seconds later, or so it seemed to Harry...

is equivalent to:

Seconds later, according to Harry's perceptions...


It seemed to Harry that seconds later...

  • What about the sense of 'or'?
    – dan
    Jun 10, 2019 at 21:19
  • 1
    The sense of "or: Either it was only a few seconds, or it was Harry's illusion that it was only a few seconds.
    – virolino
    Jun 11, 2019 at 6:09

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