Harry made his way down to the end-of-year feast alone that night. He had been held up by Madam Pomfrey's fussing about, insisting on giving him one last checkup, so the Great Hall was already full. ... ...

I feel "fussing about" is a noun phrase and Pomfrey's indicates the ownership. Maybe it's better to write it as "fussing-about"? Is my understanding correct? If not, what would be the correct way to understand it?

-- Excerpted from Harry Potter.

2 Answers 2


He was delayed held up by her ministrations fussing about.

The phrase "fussing about" is gently dismissive, diminishing the importance of and need for her attentions. But it is not said as a hostile remark. It's a kind of affectionate mockery.

If someone is making a multi-course meal, say, and is very busy in the kitchen, going from dish to dish, and there are mixing bowls and spoons on every counter top, for someone to poke their head in the door and say "What's all this fussing about?" would be treat those culinary efforts with less respect than they deserve. It is a way of recognizing the effort but at the same time treating it somewhat dismissively, reducing the effort to mere "fuss".

P.S. Stop your running around and sit down. We do not hyphenate these phrases. They are not spoken as compounds. They have a different prosody.


'fussing about' does not have to be a noun phrase, it merely has to occupy the position in the sentence of a noun phrase to be treated as such.

If we hyphenate 'fussing-about' then it becomes an actual thing, and loses the sparkle of being something from a verb.

Language maintains a set of rigid structures, such as tenses, so that we can manipulate the actual phrases in the structure to describe something in the way we wish to.

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