"Maybe they think they'll get invited to dinner if they're late." (said Aunt Petunia)

"Well, they most certainly won't be," said Uncle Vernon, and Harry heard him stand up and start pacing the living room. "They'll take the boy and go, there'll be no hanging around. That's if they're coming at all. Probably mistaken the day. I daresay their kind don't set much store by punctuality. ...

I'm not sure how to understand "That's if ..." in the sentence. Is it a common expression? I've looked it up, but I haven't found a reference to indicate it's a set phrase/expression. What does it convey?

1 Answer 1


that points back at the prior assertion, "They will take the boy and go".

They will take the boy and go — that is, if they're coming at all.

"If they're coming at all" means "if they even show up". They might not come.

I will borrow my brother's bike when he gets here. That's if he decided to come by bike. He might have chosen to walk.

  • Shorthands in English really trip me up a lot. Could you also help to explain a bit about this one: "they most certainly won't be"? Is it they won't be invited or they won't be late?
    – dan
    Dec 4, 2018 at 13:48
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    I believe Uncle Vernon is being emphatic in stating that he has no intention of extending any hospitality to people of "their kind". They most certainly won't be invited to dinner. They will be in and out. There will be no hanging around by them in his house.
    – TimR
    Dec 4, 2018 at 14:17
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    At least two more things suggest that it's "won't be [invited to dinner]" rather than "won't be [late]", @Dan. One is that it makes more sense for Vernon to contradict what they think. Another is that they'll take the boy and go, there'll be no hanging around stands in good contrast to they'll get invited to dinner. They won't stay for dinner. Instead, they'll take the boy and leave immediately. And that's [what will be true] if they come at all. Dec 4, 2018 at 20:59

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