Context: (Sherlock Holmes and the Duke's Son / Oxford University Press)

He was a large man, tall, well-dressed, and important-looking, He came into the room, walked to one of the big chairs, and suddenly fell into it. He sat there, with his eyes closed, looking white and ill.

Can we say "with his closed eyes"? instead of that sentence.
And what's the difference between them?

  • The difference is that one sounds natural and the other sounds a little off. If he sits there "with his closed eyes" it evokes an image of some other set of eyes that he has in a box or on a tray or something.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    @Fumble: The two are different. You can't really reason by analogy here.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:23
  • @Robusto: Of course they're "different". But my "implicitly condemnatory" connotation is far more likely than that adjectival closed is a "restrictive" usage implying he has other eyes that aren't closed! :) Whatever - I think this question belongs on ELL, and the only answer here so far is wrong. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:27
  • @FumbleFingers I'm not sure it is 'wrong'. If the thing he does with his 'closed eyes' is refuse to see something, either physical or metaphysical. *With his closed eyes, and closed mind, he refused to accept that he was the cause of family misery'. I shall up vote the answer.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:57

3 Answers 3


There are slightly different meanings.

He did something "with his eyes closed" means that his eyes were closed while doing it.

He did something "with his closed eyes" means that he used those closed eyes in doing it.

Since there isn't much you can do with your closed eyes, the term isn't used much.

  • As I mention above, I am upvoting. But I think you need to make clear that the thing he does with his 'closed eyes' may simply be to refuse to see.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:59

"With his closed eyes" might imply a permanent or long-term condition that caused his eyes to be closed. In that specific sentence, I'd read "with his closed eyes" to mean that his eyes were also closed while he came into the room and fell into the chair, possibly because he was blind or had a muscle disorder of his eyelids.

It does not mean the same as "with his eyes closed".

  • In similar constructs no permanence is implied. "He slapped him with his tired hand" is valid, and the hand won't stay tired for long. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 19:46
  • 1
    @DJClayworth "He slapped him with his tired hand" doesn't make any sense to me either way. Also, I'm not talking about similar constructs. I'm talking about that specific sentence in that specific paragraph, as that's what OP was asking about.
    – andi
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 20:06

When the clause describes him, use 'with his eyes closed' .

When the clause describes 'eyes ' , use 'with his closed eyes' . e.g. "With his closed eyes, he could see for miles. "

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