Learning Grammar through Reading: What Harry Potter Can Teach Us about English Grammar Rules (Week 7)

Introduction

DobbyDeep breaths, everyone. We’ve come to the final Harry Potter book and the final week of learning grammar through reading using Harry Potter. It’s time to delve into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to destroy those Horcruxes and conquer death. It’s time for the final battle against Tom Riddle. (We only give him more power by using his other name, folks. Remember that.) And, for the purpose of this post, it’s time to learn about pronouns!

Just to recap, we’ve spent the past six weeks discussing homophones, commas, interrogative sentences, subject–verb agreement, ellipses, and exclamatory sentences. We’re going to close things by discussing pronouns, those important parts of speech that make writing a much more concise business. Laughter, tears, and spoilers ensue. You’ve been warned.

Pronouns and the Deathly Hallows

This is it, folks. The last Harry Potter book. For this very special book, we’re going to look at a very important part of speech: pronouns. Pronouns are used to replace nouns. They make speaking and writing a lot easier, as they allow us to not repeat ourselves.

Much like subject–verb agreement, house-elves seem to have quite a hard time grasping the use of pronouns. With that in mind, let’s start by looking at a quote from Dobby—one of Dobby’s final lines, in fact.

Dobby has no master!” squealed the elf. “Dobby is a free elf, and Dobby has come to save Harry Potter and his friends!”

Sorry, what was that you said? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my HEART BREAKING. Does anyone have a tissue? I just need a minute . . . okay, I’m good. Back to grammar and stuff.

Dobby has a tendency to not use pronouns. Instead of saying I when referring to himself, he uses his name. If a person were to do this, it would be incredibly frustrating. When a house-elf does it, it’s endearing. (Double standards, I know.) He’s also about to save a bunch of people’s lives and sacrifice his own in the process, so what kind of heartless monsters would we be if we judged him for his pronoun usage? We also have to give Dobby props for his correct usage of the pronoun his as the end of the second sentence. I mean, he’s acting incredibly bravely by openly defying his abusive former masters. I’d say he’s doing pretty darn well.

Now that we’ve all had a good cry and seen what a sentence looks like without pronouns, let’s take a look at some quotes that make good use of pronouns.

He was afraid of it. Small and fragile and wounded though it was, he did not want to approach it. Nevertheless, he drew slowly nearer, ready to jump back at any moment. Soon he stood near enough to touch it, yet he could not bring himself to do it. He felt like a coward. He ought to comfort it, but it repulsed him.

The best way to explain how crucial pronouns are to this passage is to write it again without said pronouns. Here it is:

Harry was afraid of the thing making the noise. Small and fragile though the thing making the noise was, Harry did not want to approach the thing making the noise. Nevertheless, Harry drew slowly nearer, ready to jump back at any moment. Soon Harry stood near enough to touch the thing making the noise, yet Harry could not bring Harry to do it. Harry felt like a coward. Harry ought to comfort the thing making the noise, but the thing making the noise repulsed Harry.

Yikes. If we ever want to completely destroy the description of Harry’s experience with death, with Voldemort’s shriveled piece of soul, and with the departed Dumbledore, we know how to do it: just remove all the pronouns.

All around the walls, the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts were giving him a standing ovation; they waved their hats and in some cases their wigs, they reached through their frames to grip each other’s hands; they danced up and down on the chairs in which they had been painted.

Harry has defeated Voldemort once and for all; Hogwarts is safe, as is the world. The former headmasters and headmistresses celebrate the victory with great cheer. As with the previous quote, this just doesn’t work without pronouns. Pronouns are as important to writing as determination is to Apparating. A lack of pronouns can cause grammatical splinching, if you will.

Conclusion

This concludes our use of the Harry Potter series to learn grammar through reading. If you’re anything like me, all you want to do right now is curl up and reread the entire series. I want to tell you that I support you in that decision. Go ahead—indulge in the greatness that is Harry Potter.

Thanks so much for following this article series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any other thoughts or ideas about this article, feel free to let me know on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe you’d like to tell me about what you learned reading Harry Potter, or maybe you have some questions about something you’ve read in these articles. Maybe you just want to tell me about your massive crush on Matthew Lewis or about your deep love for Neville Longbottom. Either way, please feel free to reach out! I’m always happy to chat with fellow book lovers and grammar nerds!

,