What does this happy mean?


There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the coats of armor could walk.

The ghosts didn't help, either. It was always a nasty shock when one of them glided suddenly through a door you were trying to open. Nearly Headless Nick was always happy to point new Gryffindors in the right direction, but Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech, "GOT YOUR CONK!"

–– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

There seem to be three possible interpretations for the clause, after having consulted OALD.

  • OALD #1: happy is a predicative adjunct; was a quasi-modal combined with to-infinitive

    Nick was, always feeling pleasure, to point ~

  • OALD #5-1: happy is a predicative complement and takes its complement

    Nick was willing to point ~

  • OALD #5-2: happy is a predicative complement and takes its complement

    Nick was pleased to point ~

Which one do I have to pick?


Posted 2013-12-04T13:15:14.283

Reputation: 25 811

I'm certain that it must be sense #5, but the link you gave simply says "happy to do something (formal)" under section "WILLING" without any further dividing into #5-1 and #5-2. – Damkerng T. – 2013-12-04T13:44:08.027

1@DamkerngT. It does say “willing or pleased to do something” in the explanation, so Listenever is interpreting them as separate options. In practice it does tend to indicate that someone is both willing and pleased to do something, though, so you are justified in your instinct to consider this as a single sense of the word. – Tyler James Young – 2013-12-04T16:24:27.430

1Listenever, can you share why these three interpretations feel inappropriate for the context, or perhaps why you think they can’t all apply without conflict? – Tyler James Young – 2013-12-04T16:26:37.660

@TylerJamesYoung - I'm always happy to be here. :) – Damkerng T. – 2013-12-04T16:29:09.207



As the comments say, it's OALD #5 "willing or pleased to do something".

I'd say the meaning here is "willing", but I don't think you can entirely separate that from its literal meaning "pleased". Why not? Because you can't say someone was "happy to do something" if they were unhappy about it. If I'm willing to take your coat, but I'm muttering under my breath about what a burden it will be to my poor overburdened coat rack, I'm not certainly not happy to take your coat. So in my opinion, OALD #5 shouldn't be separated into two different options.

That said, I think your syntactic analysis is spot on ("happy is a predicative complement and takes its complement").


Posted 2013-12-04T13:15:14.283

Reputation: 30 097