...but the baggage-handlers' strike was followed by news on the drought in the Southeast ("I hope he's listening next door!" bellowed Uncle Vernon, "with his sprinklers on at three in the morning!")...

Quoted from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix page 4. What does "he" refer to here? And why would Uncle Vernon want his sprinklers on at three o'clock?

  • 1
    Pay attention to the quotation marks. "With his sprinklers on at 3 am," is something Uncle Vernon says about the next-door neighbor. It is not a comment about Uncle Vernon by the author.
    – EllieK
    May 9, 2023 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


This is a rather informal way of saying "I hope the man who lives next door, and had his sprinklers on at three in the morning, is listening to this."

"He [...] next door [...] with his sprinklers on at three in the morning" is a description of the person Uncle Vernon is talking about, although of course, at the time of speaking, it is not three in the morning, and he may not physically be next door. The neighbour's sprinkler abuse is the reason Uncle Vernon wants him to be listening to the report of the drought - these reports usually say either that sprinklers, etc., have been banned in response, or that they may be banned soon.

  • In a British 'drought' (water shortage) there is often a 'hosepipe ban', during which people are not allowed to use hosepipes or sprinklers to water gardens or to fill swimming pools. May 9, 2023 at 17:16
  • Please include a comment about the quotation marks. The quotation marks are the key to the answer.
    – EllieK
    May 10, 2023 at 18:18

"He" refers to the person who lives next door. "I hope he's listening next door." That is, I hope that the person who lives next door is listening.

The reference to sprinklers is not to Uncle Vernon's sprinklers but to the next door neighbors sprinklers. The previous sentence said that there was a news report about a drought. Uncle Vernon is saying that he hopes the next door neighbor is listening to the news reports about a drought, because he -- the next door neighbor -- regularly has his sprinklers on at 3 am, and this is wasteful in a time of drought.

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