English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

A lamp flickered on. It was Hermione Granger, wearing a pink bathrobe and a frown.
"You!" said Ron furiously. "Go back to bed!"
"I almost told your brother," Hermione snapped, "Percy -- he's a prefect, he'd put a stop to this."
Harry couldn't believe anyone could be so interfering.

–– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

It’s easy for me to read ‘interfering’ as a predicative complement, but its adjective meaning is found only in front of noun phrases. Is it a predicative or a continuous aspect?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The word "interfering" is acting as the predicate of the clause "anyone [Hermione] could be so interfering", and it's being used in the sense of "being a busybody".

In this passage, Hermione is threatening to tell Ron's older brother what Harry and Ron are up to, and Harry is complaining about Hermione's willingness to interfere in their (Ron and Harry's) business.

share|improve this answer

Pretend you don't know what the last word of the sentence is for a moment:

Harry couldn't believe that anyone could be so <adjective>.

Harry is (inwardly) expressing exasperation that someone possesses a certain negative trait (expressed by a following adjective phrase) to such a large extent.

In other words, it's clear that so (meaning "to such a large extent") is modifying a following adjective phrase. Even if you don't know what the next word is, you can be pretty sure it'll be an adjective! Take a look at some other ways you could fill in the blank:

Harry couldn't believe that anyone could be so stupid.
Harry couldn't believe that anyone could be so callous.
Harry couldn't believe that anyone could be so self-centered.

Parsing it as a verb form would be infelicitous (and only marginally grammatical at best). This would require so to mean "in that manner" instead, which clashes with the overall tone and meaning of the sentence. So the alternative is very unlikely.

Our only choice is to read interfering as an adjective meaning "meddlesome". This is true even if interfering isn't commonly used as a predicate adjective.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.