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"...There was no point in worrying Mrs Dursley, she always got so upset at any mention of her sister. He didn't blame her - if he'd had a sister like that... but all the same, those people in cloaks..."

I can't understand why the structure "if he'd had" is used instead of "if he had" here. To my understanding, this sentence is describing Mr. Dursley's thought in an indirect form rather than the author's comment.

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    This quote should be double-checked. I think the original had mistakes and the edit might have added more mistakes.
    – cruthers
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:21
  • @cruthers, the quote has been checked. Dec 9, 2021 at 3:38
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    I think this is just past tense of conditional/subjunctive (sorry, don't know the exact grammatical terms), which would be appropriate for books written in the past tense. In a present tense conversation, I might say to a friend of mine: "If I had a sister like yours, I'd go crazy." Later in our lives, looking back, I might put it all in the past tense say: "If I'd had a sister like yours, I'd have gone crazy."
    – cruthers
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:46
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    Also, I think there should probably be a semicolon, not a comma, in the quote. I'm giving Rowling some credit here.
    – cruthers
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:47
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    I think I agree, though I'm not sure I exactly know what continuity of the state is. In any case, I'm not sure I understand the distinction between indirect speech and the author's comment. I do think that this is Mr. Dursley's thought. Note that there is a missing but implicit "he'd have gone crazy" or the like represented by the "...".
    – cruthers
    Dec 9, 2021 at 4:58

1 Answer 1

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This Quora explains what you are asking quite well:

https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-use-have-had-has-had-and-had-had?share=1

HAD:

possessed/experienced at a single point or span of time in the past: I had a dog. I had a cold. He had a girlfriend.

HAD HAD

possessed/experienced something starting at some time in the past and ending before another time in the past. It contains a span of time not just a single point in time: I had had a dog for years before getting cats. I had had a cold all winter but was fine by spring. He had had a girlfriend in school but none since graduating.

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    Pretty sure this is wrong, because it ignores the conditional/subjunctive aspect of the quote in the question. The "had" in "If I had a sister like yours" is not the normal past tense "had."
    – cruthers
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:48

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