"Might as well get yer uniform," said Hagrid, nodding toward Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. "Listen, Harry, would yeh mind if I slipped off fer a pick-me-up in the Leaky Cauldron? I hate them Gringotts carts." He did still look a bit sick, so Harry entered Madam Malkin's shop alone, feeling nervous.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch dressed all in mauve.
"Hogwarts, dear?" she said, when Harry started to speak. "Got the lot here –– another young man being fitted up just now, in fact."
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

It seems that ‘when’ has the meaning of OALD’s conjunction #4: “just after which”, He had just drifted off to sleep when the phone rang. In this explanation, would ‘which’ in ‘just after which’ refer to the previous clause: ‘he had just drifted to sleep’?

And in the example above, would it refer to ‘“Hogwarts, dear?” she said’?


In this case, I think the when means “just as” rather than “just after”.

Note that OALD's example has the main clause in the perfect. The perfect establishes a state, and the rule is that a stative main clause precedes and continues during the eventuality in a when clause. In your example, however, the main clause is in the simple past and is eventive. The rule is that an eventive main clause follows the eventuality in a when clause. (For these rules, see the tag-wiki post on aspect.)

Consequently, you are to understand that Harry started to speak, but before he could utter an actual word Madam Malkin interrupted him to say “Hogwarts, dear? Got the lot here –– another young man being fitted up just now, in fact.”

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  • You might be right about “just as” vs “just after”; but I find it difficult to agree with that notion. JKR could have written “as Harry opened his mouth to speak” if she had meant for us to suppose he didn't get a word out. Instead, the implication of it all is that the first word or two somehow pegged Harry as a Hogwarts student. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Oct 23 '13 at 15:44
  • @jwpat7 Perhaps, but that reading doesn't seem possible to me personally when I read the passage. I can only imagine it the way StoneyB describes it. – snailcar Oct 23 '13 at 15:59

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