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“He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share… not being truly alive, he cannot be killed. He left Quirrell to die; he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

I’ve been told three ways of seeing as:

  1. After ‘as’, ‘he shows to’ is omitted,
  2. to’ is omitted,
  3. nothing is omitted.

And now I’m very confused about how to read the as. Is ‘as’ a conjunction or a preposition; is there any omission after it or not?

  • Why the down vote? – Kris Aug 9 '18 at 6:55
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[Answer amended 09 Aug 2018]

The original wording is, in fact, ambiguous as pointed out in the comments below and in the answer from Kris.

What I would say is that the first two of your suggestions both have the same inherent meaning, which corresponds to the meaning that I originally assumed to have been intended.

The full version would be as followed with he shows ... to included twice (repeated words are shown in italics:

he shows just as little mercy to his followers as he shows to his enemies.

but you could omit just he shows, with only to being repeated and the meaning remains unchanged:

he shows just as little mercy to his followers as to his enemies.

If, however, you omit all of he shows to, with no repetition (which is the original version):

he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies.

the sentence becomes ambiguous as pointed out in the answer from Kris.

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    Only the last version (with he shows to) is ambiguous, however. Another possible interpretation of that is “as his enemies do”, though this is not the correct interpretation in this context. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 9 '14 at 19:24
  • The preposition is not positioned for parallelism, and so the structure is not correct. – Kris Aug 9 '18 at 10:04
  • @Kris Have amended answer in view of comments and your answer below, which I have up-voted! – TrevorD Aug 9 '18 at 12:57
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"As" either a preposition or a conjunction, the writing leaves something to be desired. Had she intended "as," "as" I presume, either option (1) or (2) would be preferable to the bare "as." She could also be meaning to say "as if" his enemies. But I'm not a billionaire; what do I know?

  • “He shows just as little mercy to his followers as if his enemies”? That doesn't make any kind of sense to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 9 '14 at 19:25
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(2).

However, it's not exactly a question of omission here. It's almost an incorrect structuring.

"… he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies."

With an assumed preposition omission to for parallelism,

… he shows just as little mercy to his followers as to his enemies.

However, what if it were:

… he shows just as little mercy to his followers as do his enemies.

instead? It's grammatical, makes sense, but means something altogether different.

meta: Answering the question now because in these five years, no one has raised an objection that interpretation/ grammatical critique of literary works is off topic.

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