1

"And what are Slytherin and Hufflepuff?"
"School houses. There's four. Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o' duffers, but --"
"I bet I'm in Hufflepuff" said Harry gloomily.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

I bet there should be are in there’s four, but I’m not quite sure if there be is or are in Hufflepuff are a lot o’ duffers. (I guess it may depends on which is the head of a lot o’ duffers: lot or duffers)

2

The first part reads "There's four" because that's how Hogwarts-aged kids talk. "There are four" may be more grammatically correct, but it wouldn't have made for a better book.

As for the second part, I think that's just some implied words. I believe the speaker really means:

Everyone says [those in] Hufflepuff are a lot o' duffers, but...

or

Everyone says [those assigned to] Hufflepuff are a lot o' duffers, but --

  • 5
    Don't forget that in BrE collective nouns take plural verb forms. – Tyler James Young Oct 24 '13 at 14:27
  • @TylerJamesYoung - I suspect your answer is more correct than mine. Maybe you should elaborate some more in an answer to this question. – J.R. Oct 24 '13 at 16:20
  • I think that's the only piece yours needs. It all gets a bit squidgy with fictional sprogs a-bandy—as you've rightly said—so I can't be bothered to lay down the law anyway. – Tyler James Young Oct 24 '13 at 17:42

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