He caught Harry's eye and Harry knew at once that Snape's feelings toward him hadn't changed one jot. This didn't worry Harry. It seemed as though life would be back to normal next year, or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts.
(Harry Potter)

What does the conjunction or mean in the following sentence?

3 Answers 3


The phrase "or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts" suggests that it never actually gets very normal at Hogwarts. This weakens the previous statement, which claimed it would get back to normal.

This sort of concessive phrase is pretty common, and you'll find the specific pattern "or as * as it ever *" all over. Searching online for examples, I can find all sorts:

  • Windows is still working fine (or as well as it ever does :p)
  • I have a disabled Samsung Galaxy Y in my junk drawer, which works great (or as well as it ever did)
  • Sometimes the planets align and all is right in the world (or as right as it ever gets anymore)
  • Things were...peaceful, or as peaceful as it ever got for the Roses.

It's also relatively common in speech.

  • 1
    By your words, can I understand that ‘or’ means ‘or at least’?
    – Listenever
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:13
  • To extend on your "relatively common in speech" point, I'd say it's very common. It's usage is often when you have stated something, made a point and then very quickly realised there was some sort of flaw/mistake in what you just said. You could also use it as a device to convince others, where you will propose something before your intended proposal. The weakness of the first will improve the image of the intended proposal.
    – Felix Weir
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:33
  • 1
    @Listenever Yes, I think you can replace "or" with "or at least" without changing the meaning.
    – user230
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:36

Or is used here to express that what is previously stated is not the complete truth. We often do this in english. The author is using a common phrase 'back to normal' in the context of wizards, thereby the possibility of normality is reduced. For that reason she emphasises this with the statement after.

The fighter was ready and waiting for the big fight, or just waiting.

Here the idea is that he is pretending to be ready however in actuality isn't. Its kind of like a mini contradiction.

  • I would say that "or" implies that the previous clause may not be the whole truth. It implies that one or the other is true, with emphasis on the clause after the or, suggesting that it is perhaps more likely. Feb 20, 2013 at 13:50
  • Yea thats a really good way of putting it
    – Adam Brown
    Feb 20, 2013 at 13:54

Logical 'OR'. Either 'Normal' OR 'as normal as it ever was...etc'

  • 1
    Hello Stevo and welcome to English Language Learners Beta! Usually we prefer little bit longer and more elaborated answers. If you can improve your answer by adding detail, context, examples, to help other language learners, this would increase your answer's quality. Poor answers risk being down-voted and subsequently removed. Feb 20, 2013 at 14:14
  • 1
    Remember, too, that most users here have an imperfect command of English and are likely to misunderstand very elliptical answers. Feb 20, 2013 at 17:12
  • My bad. Although, it's a fairly succinct question; what does OR mean? I did think I was being helpful. But I understand what you are saying, examples and different descriptions help in increasing understanding.
    – Stevo
    Feb 21, 2013 at 7:37
  • They are not in fact asking what "or" means in general, and certainly not out of context of common English grammar usage. This "or" is not a logical "or" in fact.
    – Ghosty
    Jun 12, 2014 at 9:31

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