Harry and Ron had so far managed to scrape passes in this subject only by copying Hermione's notes before exams; she alone seemed able to resist the soporific power of Binns's voice.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I feel "scrape passes" is more like a compound word here, so it could be written as 'scrape-passes'. What the part of speech is "passes" if we don't take it as a compound word?

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    Your surmise is totally off-base because of to. If it had said "managed scrape passes" then it could work. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 31 '19 at 9:59

This is probably not a compound word. "Scrape passes" in this context most likely means "to barely pass [an exam or course]". It comes from the notion of "barely scraping by" (to do something with great difficulty, see the definition [verb 4]).

In this context, passes or pass if singular is just a simple way to say "a passing grade", which is used a noun.

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to scrape (something) means to manage to win or to get something

The team scraped a narrow victory last year.

I just scraped a pass in the exam.

to scrape - verb

a pass - noun

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary


to succeed in doing or dealing with something, especially something difficult
[ + to infinitive ] Did you manage to get any bread?

In your sentence manage applies to an infinitive: scrape


to succeed in getting or achieving something, but with difficulty or by a very small amount

What's that something achieved by Harry and Ron? Passes

had managed to scrape passes - [verb] + to + infinitive + object.

@Tᴚoɯɐuo has pointed that this verb is intransitive but is being used transitively here, which is unusual, at least to my AmE ear. This might be a BrE slang usage

According to the Oxford Dictionary

pass [noun]

A success in an examination, test, or course.

The whole sentence means that they passed the exams but with low qualifications. Notice what I highlighted above: by a very small amount.

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  • what does 'passes' mean exactly then? – dan Jan 31 '19 at 8:02
  • @dan I've updated my answer. – RubioRic Jan 31 '19 at 8:08
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    The verb scrape is being used transitively here, which is unusual, at least to my AmE ear. I've always heard it as an intransitive verb, to scrape by, which means to barely manage. The example you cited in the Oxford dictionary is also not taking a direct object. This might be a BrE slang usage. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 31 '19 at 10:02
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Good point. You're right, the verb "scrape" is marked as intransitive in the Cambridge Dictionary but in OP's text "pass" is the object – RubioRic Jan 31 '19 at 10:13

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