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"Yes, Ariana might have made a desperate bid for freedom and killed Kendra in the struggle," said Auntie Muriel thoughtfully. "Shake your head all you like, Elphias! You were at Ariana's funeral, were you not?"

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I can find "shake your head". I think, in this context, it means:

  1. To express confusion or bewilderment about something that has just happened or been revealed. This usage does not always indicate a literal movement of the head.

But I don't really understand the whole phrase: "Shake your head all you like". What's it supposed to mean?

3 Answers 3

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As another answer says, "all you like" (or "all you want", or "all you please") means:

It doesn't matter how much you do something...

So, in a context like:

"Shake your head all you like, Elphias! You were at Ariana's funeral, were you not?"

that means roughly the same as:

"No matter how much you shake your head, Elphias, you can't deny you were at the funeral!"

another way to say it might be:

"All the head shaking in the world won't change the fact that you were at the funeral!"

From the context, it seems like Elphias is shaking his head in denial, not in bewilderment or confusion. If someone is accusing me of something, and I don't want to acknowledge it as fact, I might "shake my head no" in silent protest. If my accuser doesn't believe or accept my denial, though, they might say:

You can shake your head all you want, J.R.; I still know you did this!

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  • Is "Shake your head as much as you like" a good paraphrase?
    – dan
    Oct 5, 2019 at 11:00
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    Yes, "all you like" and "as much as you like" mean the same thing in this context. It isn't much different than if was offering you food. I might say: "You can eat as much as you'd like," or: "You can eat all you want."
    – J.R.
    Oct 5, 2019 at 11:13
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I think you have missed the basic meaning of shaking the head in British (and other cultures) that it means emphatically no.

There are cultural differences in a head-shake as indicated in Wikipedia and notes differences in India and South Eastern Europe.

Also in British culture a nod means yes, but this is also variable by geography.

The emphatic no meaning to the head shake is documented in this British Dictionary, so to shake one's head many times means No, No, No, No, which is a very clear statement.

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  • Yes, it sounds like a 'no' to me as well.
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:59
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The expression 'all you like' can be used in connection with an action (by a listener), which the speaker wishes to imply is pointless, or will not have any effect on something the speaker knows, believes, or intends. Elphias is, I think, shaking his head in disbelief at what Auntie Muriel is saying.

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  • I also saw "shake your head all you want" Are "all you like" and "all you want" similar?
    – dan
    Oct 5, 2019 at 10:02
  • All you like, all you want, all you please, etc. All equivalent. Oct 5, 2019 at 10:09
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    Parent (to child): Cry all you like, you're going to bed now! Oct 5, 2019 at 10:11
  • Is there a way to paraphrase it?
    – dan
    Oct 5, 2019 at 10:12
  • 'however much you shake your head in disbelief, or denial, Elphias, the facts are, as they actually happened, at the funeral' is a paraphrase.
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:59

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