The book "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" starts with the line - "Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. " Hasn't J.K. Rowling used too many commas? Instead, had she written "Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."; wouldn't it be better?

Also, what does she try to indicate by writing 'thank you very much' ?

  • 3
    The commas separating house number from street name (and then after the street name) are conventional; they should not be left out. The first comma could be left out with no problems. It indicates that the address is given as parenthetical information. Jun 14, 2014 at 8:05
  • related Is this a perfunctory greeting?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 14, 2014 at 8:14
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    Mrs Rowling can afford the extra ink. With an estimated £570m, she could probably bribe the Grammar Czar into making intra-word commas mandatory. But she wouldn't. And I think the fame and fortune she has amassed reflect the quality of her writing, in all its aspects. Jun 14, 2014 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


The air of formality created by the maximal punctuation of their address (as they would themselves have stated it) helps establish the bourgeois respectability of Durselys.

This is cemented by telling us they were proud to say that they were perfectly normal.

thank you very much (for asking about it) is a piece of sarcastic excessive politeness stereotypical of petty English snobbery.

  • And is a (cleverly) transferred construction (from direct speech, where it belongs in the first instance, to indirect). Jun 14, 2014 at 9:50
  • A beautiful answer. Perfect. Dark, the author is deliberately creating an emotional feel, with the (let's roughly say) pedantic use of commas. By the way, Winston Churchill is the primary exponent in English of being such a badass - just so clear - he simply does not use commas where Lesser Men need them. Read and enjoy his works to learn how to be good enough to not use commas, as in your suggestion, Dark.
    – Fattie
    Jun 14, 2014 at 10:19

Personally, I think, the subject of too many, or perhaps, too few, commas is subjective, and, if you think, and think very well, about it, you will agree.

Anyway, the first and the third commas are fulfilling this role:

As a bracketing (or isolating) comma to mark off a weak interruption of the sentence so the sentence flows more smoothly.

For the second comma, it's due to the way addresses are normally written in a single sentence, or even in multiple lines. Commas are used to separate each line of the address from the next, though this practice may be falling out of fashion.

The last comma seems to be a literary device used in the context to indicate the humor in the sentence: the addition of "thank you very much". By adding this, the author is trying to indicate the extend of pride the Dursleys have. They are immensely proud of being normal and abhorrent of all kinds of abnormality in others. They are so proud that if you think they are not normal, they will say you're out of your mind. Basically, the function of "thank you very much" is to be a humorous interjection indicating the amount of pride.

Normally, the conjoining of two barely related sentences would be done with a semicolon. However, the author chose to use a comma here, as a semicolon would break the sentences even further, losing their humorous value.

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    Thank you very much is not really a sentence at all—especially not when it's being used as here, almost adverbially, to mean something like “and if you dare think differently, you can think again!”. Jun 14, 2014 at 8:36
  • ... Whatever else it is, it's a wonderful example [here] of a pragmatic marker [subclass modal, subsubclass 'brooking no denial' // + subclass evaluative, subsubclass 'and that's the way we like it' comment]. Jun 14, 2014 at 10:03
  • @EdwinAshworth, can you explain what you meant by "subclass modal... evaluative","subsubclass... ", etc.? Jan 18, 2020 at 15:05
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    You need to find say Fraser on pragmatic markers. They're tagged on to the matrix sentence, enriching it but not grammatically needed. Some of them are to order the content proper (Firstly ... ; ,then. ...). Some are hedging/politeness markers (, please. / ... kindly ...). Modal (/hearsay) markers are added to hedge or to give an estimate of the likelihood or truth of the statement given (He's going to finish in the top 10, I think / almost certainly / ... // He's a plagiarist, allegedly / without doubt ...). 'Thank you very much' here means 'Full stop. End of conversation. Good night!' Jan 18, 2020 at 18:49
  • So brooking no denial. But also, evaluation (however erroneous) of the situation is conveyed: 'We cherish the status quo of being seen as the typical successful normal family'. 'We're all right, Jack!' Jan 18, 2020 at 18:49

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