This sentence comes from the beginning of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone":

"They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."

I guess the sentence means "they were expected to be involved in strange events". It's confusing me. I don't understand what the sentence means, and I think the reason is I am misunderstanding the use of the word "anything".

  • The usage of anything in the sentence is not different from the normal use of the word.
    – apaderno
    Jun 27 '11 at 17:07
  • 3
    No, I think that what you are misunderstanding is the word "last", which here means "most unlikely".
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 27 '11 at 17:19
  • You are right...I went astray because I didn't understand the word 'LAST',that means ' least likely '.That I concentrated on the word 'ANYTHING' is a mistake.
    – Tom Lee
    Jul 3 '11 at 10:52

The phrase "anything strange and mysterious" means "any kind of strange and mysterious thing."


The word "anything" is simply a non-abbreviated contraction of "any" and "thing", and is generally appropriate wherever the two words would be used separately in the same statement. Its usage here is exactly as Robusto describes; "anything" is a placeholder to refer to a non-specific "thing" that is then qualified as "strange or mysterious". Your phrase is exactly synonymous with "any strange or mysterious thing", which may be a little more understandable but changes the flow of the sentence.


The sentence means that no one would have expected "they" would be involved in strange and mysterious things.

It means that they seemed like they wouldn't be the kind of people who would get into things which were strange and mysterious.

  • 3
    This is it. I think the OP didn't understand the sentence because of the expression "they were the last people you'd expect to..." = "of all people, you would sooner expect everyone else to be involved than they...". Jun 27 '11 at 20:01

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