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"Firenze saved me, but he shouldn't have done so.... Bane was furious... he was talking about interfering with what the planets say is going to happen.... They must show that Voldemort's coming back .... Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me.... I suppose that's written in the stars as well."

The sentence in bold looks ungrammatical to me. I think that sentence can be separated into two sentences:

  1. he was talking about interfering with what the planets say.

  2. what the planets say is going to happen.

The original one simply puts those two sentences together, which doesn't look grammatical.

Maybe, I just misunderstood it. What's the correct way to understand it?

-- Excerpted from Harry Potter.

2

He was talking about interfering with

what [i.e. that which] the planets say is going to happen.noun phrase

The noun phrase there can be paraphrased as "destiny" or "fate".

I want to know
what the film director says is going to happen
if the studio cuts his budget.

P.S. I am not sure how this structure would be parsed nowadays.

To me it seems that

what ... is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget

is the base noun phrase with the film director says being a clause restricting it.

But it might be that the complement of "want to know" is the film director says with its interrogative clause complement with extraposition of what:

I want to know {the film director says [what] is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget}
I want to know {[what] the film director says is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget}

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  • Yeah, I can see that we can make it grammatical that way. But it doesn't seem to make sense sematically or logically. I can understand if it's put like: ... interfering with what the planets say. I just have a bit hard time to understand the logic. – dan Oct 16 '18 at 14:08
  • Please see the P.S. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 16 '18 at 14:09
  • Maybe I haven't gotten used to this English structure or convention. I may add an 'if' in your sample sentence. as: I want to know IF what the film director says is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget.. But I know I'm probably wrong for that. – dan Oct 16 '18 at 14:15
  • @Dan: An if at the head of that clause would render it ungrammatical. It turns what the film director says is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget into a long noun-phrase subject without a main verb. I want to know if what the film director says is going to happen if the studio cuts his budget [involves decapitating a race horse] – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 16 '18 at 14:21
  • The remainder of this conversation has been moved to chat. – J.R. Oct 17 '18 at 0:22
2

Dan, you have asked several questions re HP. Be aware that JK Rowling surely has an army of very qualified literary editor or editors. There is nothing wrong with that sentence, it is just long.

Here is the parse:

[...] he was talking about|| interfering with|| what the planets say|| is going to happen.

In other words, the planets say (i.e., the movement of the planets as in astrological predictions) something is going to happen and he was talking about interfering with those predictions.

Here are two more examples of this structure:

[...] they were discussing ||not abiding by|| what the authorities said|| was going to ensue.

[...] we were considering leaving what my friends called a disaster [that is] waiting to happen.

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  • I'm not challenging, but trying to learn. As a non-native, I had a hard time to make it make sense internally. I just felt "he was talking about interfering with what the planets say" is just fine and clear to express the idea. Adding "is going to happen" looks like the whole sentence is the object of the prep word: With, which is against the rules I learnt from the grammar books. But I might take all this wrong anyway. – dan Oct 16 '18 at 14:37
  • @dan I am merely saying that it's best to think that JK Rowling's text is most likely right. I think that what is confusing is using an entire clause as a direct object: what the planets say. Consider a simpler one: They disliked what the their friends said was the problem. – Lambie Oct 16 '18 at 15:06
  • I still have a hard time to get it. Can you see my comments I put in the other answer? – dan Oct 16 '18 at 15:20
  • Actually, I dont understand what your example sentence means:They disliked what their friends said was the problem? – dan Oct 16 '18 at 15:24
  • You have parsed: "what ... is going to happen" incorrectly. For example: I don't know what is going to happen. Right? But that is not: I don't know what my friends say is going to happen. //They disliked "what my friends said". Versus:They disliked what my friends said was the problem. = My friends said x was the problem and they disliked that. – Lambie Oct 16 '18 at 15:35

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