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He lay in a bright mist, though it was not like mist he had ever experienced before. His surroundings were not hidden by cloudy vapour; rather the cloudy vapour had not yet formed into surroundings. The floor on which he lay seemed to be white, neither warm nor cold, but simply there, a flat, blank something on which to be.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

How should we understand "on which to be" here? I just can't figure it out.

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    With just a thin mattress on which to lie, and a small chair on which to sit, his prison cell was bare and uninviting. It really was a depressing place in which to be. Stylised alternatives to a thin mattress to lie on, a small chair to sit on, a depressing place to be in. Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

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He is conscious of being supported by some kind of surface, but the surroundings are so vague that he can't say for certain that he is lying on a floor - it's just something he is on.

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Just my opinion.. I think the meaning will not change too much if change end of the sentence from "on which to be" to "on which he has to be now". I think this meaning the same in main.

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  • I'm thinking: something to be on (which) -> something on which to be. Is it how it works?
    – dan
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 13:15
  • Yes, I think you're right, something like this.
    – sayfriend
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 13:31
  • ...on which he have to be now doesn't have a clear meaning either (anyway, it's he has to be). Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 13:47
  • Yes, my mistake! Thank you!
    – sayfriend
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 13:54

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