I'm a English learner and I found the following sentence which seemed strange to me when I was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Chapter one, the American Edition): "if it got out that they were related to a pair of ——well, he didn't think he could bear it."

My first problem is that I don't know why "got out" is used here. I guess it means "it turned out that". But I looked up dictionaries and searched on website, and found no place where "got out" was used in such a way.

My second problem is that I don't know why "a pair of" is used here. I guess it refers to "Mr. and Mrs. Potter", so I think it more natural to use definite article "the' instead of "a", because it refers to a particular couple, the Potters, but not a certain couple.

Can anyone answer my doubt? Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    It does indirectly refer to Lily and James, but that’s not what’s important. Mr. Dursley is not afraid of anyone finding out that they are related to Lily and James in particular, but simply that they are related to any wizards at all. (I’m guessing you’re Chinese by your name. Get out in this case means escape (from secrecy into public knowledge); it’s like 透露 or 暴露.) Apr 4, 2015 at 17:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I think I got what you mean, thanks a lot!
    – Censi LI
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet By the way, your Chinese is very good.
    – Censi LI
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:14
  • If you’re using the Chinese translation as a help to understand the English, I can understand why you were confused here. I just looked up the Chinese version (or a Chinese version, at least), and it was quite poorly translated; the meaning didn’t get through at all. It’s more along the lines of “要是被暴露出来他们自己的亲属中有一对类似的⋯⋯简直会受不了!” or something like that. Apr 4, 2015 at 17:38
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I can't agree anymore... the Chinese version you looked up is not the official one. But even in the official version, there are still plenty of mistakes...(in the official version, the translation of the sentence I'm asking is "如果真跟他们夫妇有关——那么,他认为他是承受不住的")
    – Censi LI
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


Think of it like so:

if the word got out that they were related to a pair of [what is supposed to go here is omitted because the mere thought of it is enough to gasp and immediately move on to the next thought]. [Well,] he didn't think he could bear it.

It's likely a pair of wizards, with "they" referring to the Dursleys.

  • 1
    I've searched the usage of "the word got out that" and I think you are right. Thank you very much!
    – Censi LI
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:13
  • It's likely that the word after "a pair of..." is a vulgar word or phrase, and so it was sort of implied that he didn't even want to complete the thought. This type of omission of adult words is common in Young Adult fiction. Apr 4, 2015 at 18:03
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    @JeremyNottingham: If you follow the link in the answer, you'll see the quote with more context. It's more like "a pair of [something unspeakably out of worldly to Mr. Dursley, aka wizards]" imho. Apr 4, 2015 at 18:42

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