But the others wouldn't let Professor Quirrell keep Harry to himself. It took almost ten minutes to get away from them all. At last, Hagrid managed to make himself heard over the babble.

"Must get on -- lots ter buy. Come on, Harry."

Doris Crockford shook Harry's hand one last time, and Hagrid led them through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a trash can and a few weeds.

I think 'them' in this context only includes Hagrid and Harry because no others have been mentioned in later context, but I might be wrong. If this is the case, why didn't it put: "led him"(Harry) instead. Or is it idiomatic to include the leader himself in such contexts?

  • Unless something is explicitly stated, the referent of a pronoun can never be known with certainty (barring asking the composer of a sentence directly). Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 1:18
  • Compare led their way, where their can include the one who leads.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 12:42
  • 3
    When you break it down, it is a bad thing to do and really doesn't make sense. But she likely just quickly chose a word that was close enough and moved on, because when you read it quickly it works. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 17:16

6 Answers 6


In this case, "them" does refer to both Hagrid and Harry. "Lead" does not necessarily exclude the leader, as it can refer to a general course of action:

lead (v): 1.1 [with object and adverbial of direction] Show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them.

For example, in the context of this story it would have been perfectly natural to have written:

As they negotiated the dark and twisty turns of Diagon Alley, Harry stepped close to Hagrid and whispered, "Where are you leading us, Hagrid?"

(Edit) Note that it would have been fine to write

Where are you leading me, Hagrid?

but the tone would have been significantly more mysterious, if not outright ominous. The collective "us" or "them" implies that, wherever they are going, they're going there together, but the singular "me" or "him" implies that, when they get to where they are going, Harry will have to face it alone.


I do not know the context, but "A led B" does not normally mean that A led himself. So, it may be that Hagrid is leading Harry and one or more others. Alternatively, it may be that the author meant to say something "Hagrid took the lead through the bar and out into ..." The idiom of "take the lead" certainly assumes that the leader was on the trip.

  • but more later context seemingly only involved two persons, Hagrid and Harry. no others had been mentioned at all.
    – dan
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 1:26
  • 2
    As I said, the phrase "take the lead" certainly includes the leader. But, in its literal meaing, one person leads, and one or more others follow. However, as other answers have explained, the leader is certainly on the journey, and that can result in locutions like "where are you leading us," because the leader and followers are going together to the same destination. Nevertheless, if it was merely two people, one leader and one follower, it would certainly be clearer to say "led him." Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 1:52
  • @dan The context doesn't say explicitly when other people might have "stopped" following Hagrid and Harry. When they realized H & H were going out of Diagon Alley, they would be unlikely to follow them any further. Stories often leave the reader to "fill in the gaps" between what is explicitly said, written, or shown visually (in a movie).
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 9:18
  • 1
    @alephzero Even if other people kept following, Hagrid wasn't necessarily leading the other people (and in this context, definitely not). Btw, H&H were going into Diagon Alley in this scene (they go into the Leaky Tavern through the front, a bunch of people shake Harry's hand, then they go out the back of the Leaky Tavern here...after that they go through the magic portal from the back of the Leaky Tavern into Diagon Alley). Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 14:18

I disagree with the other answers here. "Led them" and Harry's questions about "leading us" can only mean "Hagrid was leading Harry and some other people" IMO.

As a British English speaker (and a mathematician, so I'm familiar with weird logical ideas!) the notion that a person (i.e. Hagrid) can "lead himself" doesn't make any sense in English.

The definition of "lead" in https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lead is

Cause (a person or animal) to go with one ...

You can't "cause yourself to go with yourself".

In Peter's answer, the idea that someone can make a fire to "keep himself (and other people) warm" is perfectly OK, but that is not analogous to "leading himself." To take a different example, if Harry had asked Hagrid "Why are you talking to us?" the word "us" can only mean that Hagrid was talking to Harry and some other people - not that Hagrid was talking to himself!

Common sense would suggest that the crowd of people wanting to see Harry would naturally want to follow, wherever Hagrid was taking him. But the plot of the story is focussed on Harry and Hagrid, and what happens to the crowd of followers isn't important once they stop interacting with Harry - so Rowling just "forgets" about them. Describing what they did later would be "too much information", and only serve to slow the storytelling down.

  • I absolutely agree with what you're saying, but I think that in this case it does only refer to Hagrid and Harry, and is bad English.
    – Guy G
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 9:56
  • 1
    No. 'led him' sounds like Harry didn't know the way. 'Led them' simply means (in this context) that Hagrid went first, with Harry behind.
    – Strawberry
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 10:39
  • Being 'out of your mind' and 'beside yourself' don't make any sense in a related context but are still in use. Ms Rowling's use is quirky but not unheard of. She has a rather colloquial, writing-like-you-speak style.
    – mcalex
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 20:35
  • 2
    This answer assumes that only the first definition of "lead" is relevant. To my ear, this sentence sounds much closer to definition 3, "be in charge or command of". That is, there was a group consisting of two people (Hagrid and Harry), and Hagrid was acting as the leader of that group.
    – David
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 23:40
  • 1
    People can lead themselves. Why not? Judges "direct" themselves. bing.com/search?q=%22judge+directed+himself%22
    – Ben
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 17:05

In your example


means both Harry and Hagrid, the sentence has an implicit both

led them (both) through the bar

in the same way

The fire he made, kept them (both) warm.

which includes the person who made the fire.

  • but more later context seemingly only involved two persons, Hagrid and Harry. no others had been mentioned at all.
    – dan
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 1:24

For me, whether the leader is included or not conveys the amount of authority or relevant knowledge. If a scout master leads his scouts (i.e. others) through the forest, it implies the scouts are clueless and helpless without his leadership. If someone leads a team of researchers (i.e. is part of the team), it implies that all members are more or less equally competent, but the leader is directing their efforts.


As others have pointed out, it's obvious (but only) from the subsequent context (not published above) that 'led' in this instance refers only to Hagrid and Harry, so yes, Hagrid 'led himself'.

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