"I see," said Professor McGonagall, fixing Harry with her beady eyes. "Then you should know, Potter, that Sybill Trelawney has predicted the death of one student a year since she arrived at this school. None of them has died yet. Seeing death omens is her favorite way of greeting a new class. If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my colleague --

Professor McGonagall broke off, ...

I don't quite understand the sentence above in bold. What does it try to convey? Particularly the part: If it were not for the fact

-- From Harry Potter.

  • I think that's kind of humor! I mean he already talked shit behind her!
    – Cardinal
    Nov 15, 2018 at 6:20
  • @Cardinal Yeah, that's the part that confuses me too.
    – dan
    Nov 15, 2018 at 6:43

1 Answer 1


Well, I think the answer lays in the relationship between Trelawney and McGonagall.

In her E-book, Short Stories From Hogwarts Of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies, J.K. Rowling discusses Trelawney in-depth, and even gives some detail about the lukewarm relationship between Trelawney and McGonagall. The author considers them "polar opposites", and of course Potter prefers Professor McGonagall.

So here by "If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my colleague", I think Professor McGonagall tried to tell Harry: 1.It's not good to speak ill of your colleague but Trelawney is a little bit too grandiose(for the fact); 2.Don't be scared of her prediction.

Despite their differences, however, McGonagall leapt to Trelawney's defence because she sensed Trelawney's "underlying feeling of inadequacy". That's why we love Professor McGonagall, she's really upright.

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  • So, can we paraphrase the sentence as: it was the fact(Trelawney's behavior or talking) that made me to speak ill of Trelawney, but normally I don't speak ill of my colleague? Is the paraphrase correct?
    – dan
    Nov 15, 2018 at 10:40
  • 1
    I think you're right.
    – Jkingoo
    Nov 15, 2018 at 13:36
  • I feel "the fact" here should refer to "I never speak ill of my colleague". I found another example on the web: "If it weren't for the fact that he gave them money, the organization would be bankrupt". There, the fact is "he gave them money". So, now I think "If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my colleague" looks an incomplete sentence. What do you think?
    – dan
    Nov 15, 2018 at 14:28
  • 2
    @dan It is an incomplete sentence. That's why it ends with a dash. She didn't finish it because she doesn't speak ill of her colleague. To speak ill of her, the rest of the sentence could be something like I'd say she doesn't know what she's talking about or I'd say she's too melodramatic. Nov 15, 2018 at 14:58
  • @dan You know what, I think I've got it wrong. You are right, the "fact" here should be "I never speak ill of my college", because there is a "that". So I think like Jason said, the incomplete sentence means that "I really want to say that Trelawney doesn't know what she's talking, but no, I would never do something like that."
    – Jkingoo
    Nov 30, 2018 at 1:46

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