10

The class everyone had really been looking forward to was Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Quirrell's lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke. His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire he'd met in Romania and was afraid would be coming back to get him one of these days.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

The subject of the highlighted part would be ‘the vampire.’ If this were a dialogue, I wouldn’t have been confused that there is no explicit subject. What permits this to happen?

  • 1
    “On what case, does it be happened?” is ungrammatical and unclear. Please reword that part. – James Waldby - jwpat7 May 18 '13 at 5:06
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JKR’s “authorial voice” is suppressed. She mostly writes in the casual dialect of her characters, to give a sense of how they experience the events of the story.

The very long noun phrase about the vampire conjoins two propositions about that creature:

he’d met the vampire in Romania
he was afraid [that] the vampire would be coming back to get him one of these days

To ‘package’ this information efficiently, JKR makes each a relative clause modifying a vampire. These might in a more formal style be headed by which or that, but JKR prefers a more conversational ‘null relativizer’ (represented here by Ø). This replaces the vampire in each proposition, and moves to the head of the clause (a _ marks the place from which it was moved):

a vampire
 Ø he’d met _ in Romania
 and
 Ø he was afraid _ would be coming back to get him one of these days

The conjunctive construction permits the second ‘he’ to be ellipted, since it occupies the same position and structural role in both clauses:

a vampire
 Ø he
  ’d met _ in Romania
  and
  was afraid _ would be coming back to get him one of these days

Technically, vampire is not the subject of would be coming back; that subject is the invisible null relativizer Ø.

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