In the sentence (from Harry Potter) below Dudley tries to grab the letter and then read it.


When I read it until ...としたが I thought the action of grabbing succeeded, but when Dudley tried to read the letter something happened that prevented it.

However from the latter part I seems that Dudley didn't even managed to grab the letter because the uncle was holding the letter high above.

  1. Is my understanding the Dudley didn't even grab the letter correct?
  2. How can we change the first part of this sentence in order to convey that Dudley actually grabbed the letter? Would using と言って work?


  • 2
    Does it really say 「届ない」? – l'électeur Jul 13 '18 at 15:46
  • l'électeur - you're right, it should be 「届かない」. Fixed – Pawel Batko Jul 13 '18 at 18:22
  • I think the nuance of whether 奪って have been completed can be indicated by a comma: ダドリーが手紙を奪って読もうとしたが、 vs ダドリーが手紙を奪って、読もうとしたが、 – Pawel Batko Aug 28 '18 at 16:14
  1. According to the English version of the book (and the movies too if I remember correctly), Dudley couldn't grab it. So yes you were right about that point.

    Dudley tried to grab the letter to read it, but Uncle Vernon held it high out of his reach.

    (Harry Potter 1 P27, by J.K. Rowling)

    I think the key grammar here is not just としたが but ようとしたが

    しようとする means trying to do something. For example

    食べようとしている means trying to eat (something)

    But in the sentence you provided it connected with が which indicates a contradiction with the latter part of the sentence.

    So 読もうとしたが means, he did try to read it but (failed to do so because Vernon...)

  2. I'm not sure what you are trying to say here but I believe that と言って is not use for that purpose. I think we use と言って when referring to a speech or quotation.

P.S. To answer the question in your title, I think the V1て。。。 structure here is used to connect two actions together chronologically. So I think it turns 奪って読む into 奪って読もうとする [He grab it then read it] -> [He tried to grab it and read it]

  • 1
    How would change the example sentence in question to state that Dudley grabbed the book and tried to read it (but then the uncle e.g. grabbed it back)? – Pawel Batko Jul 13 '18 at 21:16
  • 読よもうとしたが --> Do you mean 読{よ}もうとしたが instead? – ajsmart Jul 13 '18 at 22:12

I dont know the original sentences but...

Dudley couldn't touch the letter even one time.

so in this scene, his uncle(おじさん)has the letter, and Dudley tried to rob the letter and read the letter but he couldn't both of them.

if he could rob the letter but he couldn't read, 彼は手紙を奪って読もうとしたが、おじさんは手紙を取り上げ手の届かないように高々と掲げていた。

he could get the letter but his uncle get it back.

and if he could rob and read the letter halfway but he couldn't read all of the letter. 彼は手紙を奪って途中まで読んだが、おじさんは手紙を取り返し手が届かないように高々と掲げていた。

and your question, 奪って読もうとしたが there are two verbs, and ~が.

"奪って読もう" including (奪おうとした:tried to rob)and (読もうとした:tried to read). and you can estimate to failed some action from 〜が.

there are two possibility, Dudley couldn't rob, and couldn't read. or, Dudley could rob but couldn't read. (in the case could read but couldn't rob, if u could read, Dudley have to rob the letter.)

and next sentence Uncle hold the letter higher place. that means he holding letter, if Dudley could rob, there are the expression Uncle could get the letter back.

but the original sentences there is no such expression. so that means Dudley failed to rob the letter.

so, first question, yes you are correct.

and next question,

if Dudley could get the letter, but couldn't read. and keep the next sentence like that.


in this case Dudley couldn't read even one word of letter.


in this case Dudley could read halfway but couldn't read all.

if you want to change, you should explain the fact that uncle get the letter buck.

im Japanese. so, im sorry for some mistakes of English.

  • You are treating sentences as if they were paragraphs, making your writing pretty difficult to read. – l'électeur Jul 16 '18 at 2:27

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