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In the sentence, who is pleased, Malfoy or Crabbe and Goyle?

Malfoy went to join his friends Crabbe and Goyle, looking pleased with himself.

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4  
It's Malfoy. Otherwise the sentence would be "Malfoy went to join his friends Crabbe and Goyle, who looked pleased with themselves." –  Peter Shor Nov 13 '12 at 4:23
    
@PeterShor As the OP incorrectly (and unnecessarily) suspects, it could, grammatically, be Goyle. But the comma after Goyle is a give away. Listenever, what were you expecting? Crabbe? Goyle? Both? Why do you think so? Does the grammar and punctuation suggest something to you? –  Kris Nov 13 '12 at 5:26
    
Generally, that's a poor style. While the comma removes the ambiguity in writing, it is lost in speech and the meaning doesn't jump at the reader, one has to spot it. It would be better rephrased with Malfoy, looking pleased with himself, went... –  SF. Nov 13 '12 at 9:22
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@Kris: It's not the comma. To me, a native English speaker, the sentence "Malfoy went to join his friends Crabbe and Goyle looking pleased with themselves" is clearly ungrammatival (with our without the comma). I don't know why, which is why I didn't post an answer. Maybe I should have, since nobody else has explained why, either. This is a subtle English grammar point, and it isn't helping the OP if you imply that it's obvious. –  Peter Shor Nov 13 '12 at 11:53
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Without the comma, it's an identifying clause, which is illicit because C and G are fully identified. He went to talk to the men looking pleased with themselves is possible provided this means those among the already-mentioned men present who were looking pleased with themselves. –  Colin Fine Nov 14 '12 at 2:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's Malfoy. Aside from the comma, himself can't refer to anyone else but Malfoy.

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It's definitely Malfoy who is pleased.

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You should observe the use of the comma which means it's Malfoy who is pleased. Without the comma, it could mean differently.

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The comma doesn't mean anything. "I found the cat, looking pleased with herself, with our Thanksgiving turkey." –  Peter Shor Nov 13 '12 at 11:47

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