Learning Grammar through Reading: What Harry Potter Can Teach Us about English Grammar Rules (Week 6)

Introduction

Remember earlier in the series when we discussed the use of interrogative sentences in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Well, if Azkaban is all about raising questions, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is all about surprises. It’s only appropriate, therefore, that we should use the sixth book of the Harry Potter series to examine the use of exclamatory sentences.

Professor SnapeI know I’ve given the “spoiler alert” warning with each of these posts, but I feel especially obligated to give it again here. Let me be very clear: this post will explicitly state major plot twists. If you haven’t read the book, this post will ruin it for you. I beg you—don’t do that to yourself! Please, for the love of all that Dumbledore holds dear, please don’t read this post until you’ve read the book!

Exclamatory Sentences and the Half-Blood Prince

It’s time to look at exclamatory sentences—that is, declarative sentences that express a strong emotion. All exclamatory sentences end with exclamation points. As mentioned before, there’s a lot of reason for strong emotion in Half-Blood Prince, as can be seen in the following examples.

“Dont you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realise that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different!

Dumbledore passionately explains just exactly how Voldemort fulfilled Professor Trelawney’s prophecy in his attempt to avert it. What’s that I hear, Lord Voldemort? Oh, yes. That would be Karma. She’s coming for your Horcruxes, and she’s not happy.

We did it, Professor!” Harry whispered with difficulty; he suddenly realised that he had a searing stitch in his chest. “We did it! We got the Horcrux!

Harry is happy to be safely back in Hogsmeade with Dumbledore after an almost-fatal quest to retrieve one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. So happy, in fact, that he can’t help but throw a few exclamatory sentences in there. (But he doesn’t know! He doesn’t know that the danger is just beginning! Oh, the horror!)

“You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? It was I who invented them—I, the Half-Blood Prince! And you’d turn my inventions on me, like your filthy father, would you? I don’t think so . . . no!

Major, major spoiler alert: Snape is the Half-Blood Prince. Don’t worry, though—he’s a good guy. I mean, he’s not really a good guy. He’s kind of a bitter, lonely, middle-aged wizard who has a really hard time letting things go. But he is definitely a hero. It’s kind of confusing, really. Anyway, Snape doesn’t get excited very often, so you know that when he’s using exclamation points, things are gettin’ real.

The final set of exclamatory sentences we’re going to examine are the ones I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming for approximately three days after finishing Half-Blood Prince:

“SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE! Snape killed Dumbledore! DUMBLEDORE! He’s dead! Snape killed him!”

Heart = broken. Mind = blown. (I warned you that there would be major spoilers, did I not?)

Conclusion

Some people think reading is boring. I think those people are nuts! There is punctuation for every occasion, my friends, and exclamatory sentences are great for alerting the reader that something really important or shocking is going on. They also help keep things exciting!

Thanks for reading this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out the posts from books one, two, three, four, and five if you haven’t already done so, and feel free to reach out on Facebook or Twitter if you have something to say about this Learning Grammar through Reading series. Don’t forget to read the final post next week, which will cover pronouns in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (If thinking about the final book in the Harry Potter series makes you want to cry, know that you are not alone—I’ve been weeping since the book was published in 2007. I guess you could say it’s been a long eight years.)

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