From the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:

"That's mine!" said Harry, trying to snatch it back.

"Who'd be writing to you?" sneered Uncle Vernon, (1) shaking the letter open with one hand and (2) glancing at it...

"Let me see it!" demanded Dudley.

"OUT!" roared Uncle Vernon, and he took both Harry and Dudley by the scruffs of their necks and threw them into the hall, (3) slamming the kitchen door behind them.

Participial phrases (1) and (2) seem to happen at the same time as the main clause. But (3) seems to happen after the main clause. Is it right?

  • 1
    In my mind's eye, it all happened in the order I read it in.
    – user230
    Mar 13, 2013 at 11:36
  • Yes, I can see better. So, it's like a sequential events, all three of the participial phrases. Rather than simultaneous, right?
    – Listenever
    Mar 13, 2013 at 11:48
  • 2
    The participles are simultaneous with Reference Time, which in narrative constantly moves forward: sneered, demanded, roared, took, threw. Think of them as 'stage directions' in a script. Mar 13, 2013 at 12:05
  • @StoneyB, Your name wih ‘stage directions’ finally put on my Harry Potter book, and I recollect when I started to learn English. At first I started with dramas with Oscar, Beckett, Bernard Shaw, and I forgot his name.. over a woman who had to go to a mental asylum by his sister and brother-in-law, with resignation and preter-secular odd chuckles.. And they were not easy, so I moved into the Neil Simon’s ‘The Collected Plays of Neil Simon. Vol 2’.
    – Listenever
    Mar 13, 2013 at 13:02
  • 1
    I think the one you forget is Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. ... Tense, at least, is a lot easier to sort out in drama! Mar 13, 2013 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


Uncle Vernon obviously can't glance at the letter until after he's shaken it open, and he can't slam the kitchen door until after he's thrown Harry and Dudley through it into the hall. It's just like...

[The sherrif] drew his gun and shot [the outlaw]

...where and can be understood as meaning [and] then. In most cases, only context and logic tells you whether and implies at the same time or [immediately] afterwards (or if it even makes any difference).

As regards whether Uncle Vernon actually said the words "Who'd be writing to you?" before or while shaking the letter out [and reading it], I think that falls into the "makes no difference" category.

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