In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, what does the the word "when" means in this sentence?

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New Member
Dudley’s gang had been chasing him as usual when, as much to Harry’s surprise as anyone
there he was sitting on the chimney

In the above sentence, I don't quite understand the meaning of the word "when",
I assumed it may connect with "there he was sitting on the chinmey"
so I will translate it in this way: when he was sitting on the chimney there, Dudley's gang had been chasing him as usual
but in this way, I don't think it makes sense to be translated in to ”at that moment“ because it sounds weird. "when he was sitting, they had been chasing?" I am confused.
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It has its normal meaning of "at that instant" but there is a nuance that will help : "all of a sudden" or "unexpectedly" is a sense often associated with "there he was".

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It very little different from saying "Harry had been reading a book when the telephone rang". The event in the simple past interrupted the event in the past continuous.

    There is, of course, a difference, because "there he was" is not an event but a situation. However, the interruption is the same, and we can infer from the new situation that an event must have occurred to move him there.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "When" tells us the time that something happened. In this case, "Dudley's gang had been chasing him as usual" tells us the time: not as a time on a clock, but in terms of an event that took place. At that time, he found himself sitting on the chimney. He was transported there by magic, but at this time in his life he didn't know much about magic, so he didn't understand that. That's why he was surprised.
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