a knock on the door

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dadawa

Senior Member
Chinese
Dear friends,

I have a question about the meaning of "knock" in the following three sentences:

1. There was a knock at the door, then a second.

2. At midnight he heard three knocks at the back door.

3. He began to complain about this wicked world but was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My understanding about "a knock" in the first two sentences is the sound resulting from "one hit" on the door. So the second knock is the second one of two hits, and three knocks means three hits. However, in sentence three, could "a knock" still mean one hit? Usually when a person knocks on the door, he would make several consecutive hits within a few seconds, right? Does that mean "a knock" have more than one meaning and could cause ambiguity?

Thank you in advance.
 
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  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    When I knock on a door, I hit the door knocker twice. To me, this is a knock (since a single knock is less likely to be heard).
    So I would understand sentence 1 to mean knock-knock...............pause.................knock-knock.
    We have a stock phrase: "There was a loud knock at the door." Again I don't understand this to be a single rap at the door.
    I'll let others give their views.

    By the way, are the sentences from a course book or from somewhere else?
     

    dadawa

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, e2efour!
    All the sentences are from a grammar book and a textbook for English learners.

    I just googled "knock". I found that there is a movie called "a second knock at the door".
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I understand sentence 2 to be someone knocking at the door (i.e. three sounds in quick succession). I don't think it means someone knocking three times in the course of, say, one minute). It seems to mean rap-rap-rap (=one knock).

    I don't think the movie helps since it seems to mean two persons knocking at the door on different occasions.
     

    dadawa

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks!
    So can I say that "knock" does have two possible meanings: a sound from one hit, or, several sounds from a group of continual hits within a few seconds, which means sentence 3 can be explained in two ways?
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't think there's any ambiguity in the sentences. It is true that a knock could mean one hit, but this does not amount what is called "a knock on the door". So sentence 2 (I think you mean) describes one knock consisting of three blows/raps in my opinion.
     
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